Ida B. Wells is an African American civil rights advocate, journalist, and feminist. Wells was born enslaved in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862.
While on a train ride from Memphis to Nashville in May 1884, Wells reached a turning point. She had bought a first-class ticket, but the train crew forced her to move to the car for African Americans. Wells refused on principle, before being forcibly removed from the train. As she was being removed, she bit one of the crew members.
Wells sued the railroad, and won a $500 settlement in a circuit case court. The decision was overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Following this incident, Wells began writing about issues of race and politics in the South.
Using the name "Iola", Wells had a number of her articles published in black newspapers and periodicals. She later became an owner of two newspapers: The Memphis Free Speechand Headlight and Free Speech.
In addition to working as a journalist and publisher, Wells worked as a teacher in a segregated public school in Memphis. She was a vocal critic of the condition of segregated schools in the city, and was fired from her job in 1891 because of her criticism.
In 1892, Wells turned her attention to anti-lynching after a friend and two of his business associates were murdered. She brought her anti-lynching campaign to the White House in 1898 and called for President McKinley to make reforms.
Wells was an active fighter for woman suffrage, particularly for Black women. On January 30, 1913 Wells founded the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago. Work done by Wells and the Alpha Suffrage Club played a crucial role in the victory of woman suffrage in Illinois on June 25, 1913 with the passage of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Act.
The Ida B. Wells-Barnett House was listed as a National Historic Landmark on May 30, 1974.
Her home is a private residence and not open to the public.