Ida B. Wells | A Chicago Stories Special

Illustration of Ida B. Wells

On a September day in 1883, 21-year-old Ida B. Wells was on a train from Memphis to her teaching job in Shelby County, Tennessee. Aboard the ladies’ car, Ida read her newspaper. When the conductor began collecting tickets, he told Ida that the car she was in was for white ladies only. After she refused, the conductor and another train employee removed Ida by force as white passengers cheered them on. But for Ida B. Wells, the fight didn’t stop there. If anything, that moment was just the beginning of a life devoted to the fight for justice. Read more

Life and Family

How Ida B. Wells Began Her Fight for Justice

Freed from slavery just six months after she was born, Ida B. Wells once described her childhood with her parents and siblings in Holly Springs, Mississippi as “happy.” But a tragedy would alter the course of Wells’ youth. As a young woman and teacher, she refused to give up her seat on a train car that she was told was reserved white women. That incident launched the young Wells into her first public fight for justice.

Ida B. Wells portrait

Investigative Journalism

Exposing the “Thread-Bare Lie”: How Ida B. Wells Used Investigative Journalism to Uncover the Truth About Lynching

Through writing, Ida B. Wells found her “real” self. As she put pen to paper, her words became an important tool to analyze, debate, and persuade readers on the issues of the day, particularly when it came to race and gender. But after the lynching of her close friend in Memphis, Wells found a new kind of power in her pen.

Ida B. Wells portrait with Moss family
Nikole Hannah-Jones

Digital Exclusive: Nikole Hannah-Jones on Ida B. Wells' Legacy in Journalism

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who writes for The New York Times Magazine, won a Pulitzer Prize on the same day that Ida B. Wells was posthumously awarded her own Pulitzer. In this extended interview, Hannah-Jones discusses Wells’ writing style, what drove Wells to investigative and data reporting, and her legacy as a journalist.

The Causes She Championed

Standing Up for Her Principles: Ida B. Wells and the Suffrage Movement

Even as Ida B. Wells became a prominent activist and journalist, she still didn’t have the right to vote. While she continued to write, report, and be a vocal opponent of racial discrimination and violence, she also turned her attention to women’s suffrage. But she often encountered racism within the suffrage movement itself.

Ida B. Wells portrait

A Remedy for Injustice: How Ida B. Wells Fought for Equal Education

As a former teacher, Ida B. Wells saw education as an important tool for the progress of Black people in America. As Wells became an anti-lynching advocate, a suffragist, and a leader in the fight against discrimination, she also sought equal education for Black children.

Classroom of children in Memphis circa 1930s

Ida B. Wells and Chicago’s Black Settlement House

One of the lesser-told stories about Ida B. Wells’ life is her work with the Negro Fellowship League, one of the first Black settlement houses in Chicago. With its location on The Stroll on State Street, the Negro Fellowship League’s goal was to support a population that many people ignored.

Ida B. Wells portrait

Seven Places to Trace Ida B. Wells’ Footsteps in Chicago

What do a public library, a park, and a house on King Drive all have in common? They are all places where Ida B. Wells once lived and worked. Discover the history of seven locations in Chicago that are connected to journalist and activist Ida B. Wells.

Seven Places to Trace Ida B. Wells Footsteps in Chicago video thumbnail

Lead support for Ida B. Wells, A Chicago Stories Special is provided by The Negaunee Foundation.

Additional support is provided by Jim and Kay Mabie; Strategic Growth and Transformation Partners, LLC; Gwen Cohen, Wealth Advisor at Morgan Stanley; Pangea Properties; The Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation; TAWANI Property Management; Elizabeth B. Yntema; and the Scott and Sara Fisher Family.