Ida B. Wells
An Inspiring Black Woman
Born into slavery during the Civil War, Ida B. Wells showed her resilience and aspiration for transformation, defying the circumstances and limitations around her to assert change in her community.
There has never been a time in history without turmoil and struggle, and there has never been a person who has avoided difficulty in life. We should not live our lives always trying to elude obstacles. Rather, we should seek to overcome them. A great way to learn how to develop this mindset and way of living is by looking to the inspirational and formidable women who have come before us and defeated their own obstacles.
One such woman was Ida B. Wells: an African American woman born into slavery during the Civil War, when the United States was at war with two sides battling for and against the continuation of slavery. Growing up in this situation and living throughout its aftermath, Ida B. Wells showed her resilience and aspiration for transformation, defying the circumstances and limitations around her to assert change in her community. She was a journalist, activist, and researcher interested in uncovering the gruesome and horrible conditions that Black individuals faced in their everyday lives.
Her parents inspired her to continue her education and pursue a deeper understanding of the world around her. Wells attended Rust College, though she did not complete her degree there. Shortly after, while on a visit to her grandmother, her parents and infant brother died from yellow fever, leaving her to fend for herself and her siblings. In order to support her family, she got a job to work as a teacher during the school year. This did not stop her from continuing her education, and she attended Fisk University in the summers.
Ida B. Wells had strong political views. She worked for women’s rights and racial equality, and stood for what she believed in, suing a train conductor when he unfairly ordered her to give up a first-class seat she had paid for. Though she won at a local court, the decision was overruled by the Tennessee Supreme Court, revealing the institutional racism and a huge obstacle she faced in her activism. This was a significant turning point in her life. It became clear how much work was necessary to fix such a broken system.
This strengthened her resolve, and as she continued to teach, she became increasingly motivated to write about and research the history of racism and slavery. She was hired as an editor for a small journal in Memphis and wrote articles for The Living Way newspaper. Wells criticized injustice and called for change, and eventually, she was no longer allowed to teach due to her strong opinions. This did not stop her and soon she was traveling the world to spread information and demand progress.
Her inspirational message came through in her actions: a call for us to take action and keep moving forward despite any obstacles. It is a lesson that we should learn from her and apply to our lives, reminding ourselves that we can find such strength and resilience in ourselves, too.