You cannot talk about resistance without discussing Ida B. Wells.
Wells’ unwavering fight against black disenfranchisement displayed the necessity of black voices in activism.
But for Wells — who was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People NAACP in 1909 — resistance was mightiest in her pen.
In 1884, after the Holly Springs, Miss. born teacher-turned-journalist was dragged off a train to Memphis for refusing to give up her seat for white person, Wells wrote an article for her local newspaper “The Living Way,” exposing the injustices of the Jim Crow South and sparking a boycott of all white goods and services by blacks.
But it was Iola’s (a pen name Wells wrote under) coverage of lynchings, the first being that of friend in 1889 who owned a frequented black-owned store, that unearthed a tortured history of black Americans. It’s in Wells’ scathing dialogue that we uncover the staggering number of blacks slain for simply daring to be.
Wells’ impact is not to be forgotten.
The National Association of Black Journalists and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University jointly awards the Ida B. Wells Award to journalists who have worked to increase access and opportunities to people of color in journalism.
The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting and the Investigative Fund’s Ida B. Wells Fellowship were started in 2015 and 2016 respectively to cultivate the next crop of black investigative journalists, proving Iola’s pen is — and always will be — mightier than the sword.
Celebrate Black History Month
Throughout February, we’ll spotlight a different African-American pioneer in the daily Living section Monday through Thursday and Saturday. Go to myAJC.com/black-history-month for more subscriber exclusives on people, places and organizations that have changed the world, and to see videos on the African-American pioneer featured here each day.