Ida B. Wells was born to enslaved parents in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862. Despite the fact that her parents and youngest sibling died of Yellow Fever when she was only fourteen she refused to separate her family. One of seven children, she continued her education by attending Rust College. After moving to Memphis with her aunt she secured a job as a teacher and helped support her sisters.
In 1884 she was asked to give up her seat to a white man by the conductor of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. She refused and was literally dragged from the train.
"I refused, saying that the forward car [closest to the locomotive] was a smoker, and as I was in the ladies' car, I proposed to stay. . . [The conductor] tried to drag me out of the seat, but the moment he caught hold of my arm I fastened my teeth in the back of his hand. I had braced my feet against the seat in front and was holding to the back, and as he had already been badly bitten he didn't try it again by himself. He went forward and got the baggageman and another man to help him and of course they succeeded in dragging me out."
This was the incident that would become the primary reason for Ms. Wells' advocacy for racial justice and women's rights. She returned to Memphis and filed a lawsuit against the railroad and initially won the case. However, the Supreme Court of Tennessee overturned the decision disregarding the Civil Rights Act of 1875 which stated that it was illegal to discriminate based upon race or creed.
"Her suit against the railroad company also sparked her career as a journalist. Many papers wanted to hear about the experiences of the 25-year-old school teacher who stood up against white supremacy. Her writing career blossomed in papers geared to African American and Christian audiences."
Ms. Wells continued to write about "Southern injustices" and due to threats upon her life she moved to Chicago. She developed organizations for African Americans and women's rights. Along with other African American notables like W.E. Du Bois and Mary Bethune, Ida B. Wells created the NAACP (National Assoc. for the Advancement of Colored People).
Later in life Ms. Wells was appointed to President Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet" a group who advised him on issues like education, jobs and civil rights.
www.phoenix.edu/forward/perspectives/2012/02/5-black-americans-who...Here are five black Americans ... Ida B. Wells -Barnett “ ... the only woman in the so-called “Black Cabinet” formed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt .
She died in 1931 in Chicago at the age of 69 from kidney disease but fortunately not before leaving an indelible mark upon Black History.