Ida Bell Wells -
Women's Rights Advocate, Journalist, Educator
Scott # 2442
Issued February 1, 1990 in Chicago, Illinois
Stamp Artist: Thomas Blackshear
This hand painted cachet by Lee Mitchell makes use of the stamp in the over-all design of the cover


Ida Bell Wells was born a slave on July 16, 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi. She was 6 years old when the 13th Amendment was passed making her a free citizen. Both of her parents died in 1876 as a result of contracting Yellow Fever.

Ida attended The Holly Springs Freedman's School and supported her family after the death of her parents with teaching jobs. In 1880, Ida and two of her sisters moved to the home of an Aunt in Memphis, Tennessee where she entered Fisk University

She was a strong adherent of both civil and women's rights. Ida was not at all bashful about making her views known and took an active stand on rights issues. In 1884 while traveling on a train, she sat in a whites only seat and was forcefully removed from the train. Ida sued the Chesapeake, Ohio & South Western Railroad Company. Her suit was initially successful but was later overturned by the Tennessee Supreme court. As a result of her suit, Ida was dismissed from her job as a schoolteacher by the Memphis School Board.

Another cause which Ida was deeply involved in was the lynching of Black's.  (Three close friends of Ida's were lynched) She became a reporter and part owner of the newspaper Free Speech in 1889 and used the paper as a platform to speak out against lynching.  In 1890, as a result of her articles on lynching, her office was ransacked and her press destroyed. One of the participants bragged that they would have lynched Ida, if she had been present. (She was in Philadelphia at the time.) 

Ida moved to New York and began working for the New York Age as a staff writer. She organized societies against lynching and lectured across the country. She wrote "Lynching and the Excuse for it" in 1901 and her autobiography, Crusade for Justice in 1928.

Ida married Ferdinand Barnett in 1895 and moved to Chicago. Ida and Ferdinand had four children. She also began to actively campaign for women's suffrage at this time. She helped to found The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909 and served as the secretary of The National Afro-American Council in 1910. 

Ida's unflagging efforts on behalf of civil rights were the cornerstone in the fight against Jim Crow laws and were at the heart of the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s.

Ida B. Wells died of Uremia on March 25, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois. 

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