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Markers of Distinction

Ida B. Wells-Barnett
1862–1931
Social reformer

Ida B.Wells-Barnett spent her life crusading against lynching
in America. An advocate for civil rights, woman’s suffrage and
economic justice, her anti-lynching campaign stirred the
nation and brought international attention to racially
motivated brutality.

Born a slave in Mississippi, Wells became a teacher at age
14. She was dismissed in 1891 for protesting segregation.
In her 20s, she began writing for the weekly Memphis Free
Speech,
focusing on social issues. Her column soon
appeared in Negro newspapers across the country.

In 1893, Wells came to Chicago to report on the lack of
African-American representation at the World’s Columbian
Exposition. She moved here and in 1895 married Ferdinand
Lee Barnett, founder of Chicago’s first black newspaper,
the Conservator. That same year, she published
A Red Record, the first statistical report on lynching, and she lectured on the topic throughout the United States and the world.

Wells was a founder of several national organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909, the Negro Fellowship League in 1910, and the nation’s Þrst black women’s suffrage organization. Locally, Wells helped open the first kindergarten in Chicago’s black community.

Wells and her family lived at 3624 Grand Boulevard, now King Drive, from 1919 to 1930.