Ida B. Wells

The Pavlovic Today presents you the women journalist’s stories from the past and present. For centuries, the field of journalism has been dominated by white men, overshadowing the powerful work of women, especially women of color. Today, we share with you the empowering story of Ida B. Wells.

 

In 1892, three Black men and co-owners of a successful business found themselves in an altercation with the police and subsequently thrown in jail. Before any conviction could come down, or a fair trial convened, a white mob dragged the men out of the jail and lynched them. 

Their tragic deaths changed the life of their friend, Ida B. Wells, who became a widely celebrated and inspiring investigative journalist.

After the lynching of her three friends, Wells started investigating, researching, and reporting on lynchings across America. She visited the sites of previous lynchings, counted the deaths, interviewed eye-witnesses, examined photographs from the events and other meticulous actions. Her skills and techniques in muckraking (investigating and exposing established institutions and leaders) have long been overshadowed by white, male journalists, but recently her work has been celebrated and credited for changing the field of investigative journalism. 

In 1862, Wells was born into slavery and by the end of her life in 1931, Wells became a legendary investigative journalist, powerful anti-lynching activist, co-founder of the NAACP, and inspiration to future female journalists and activists everywhere. 

In 2016, the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Journalism was founded in Memphis, Tennessee to promote investigative journalism and encourage minority journalists striving to expose injustices of the government and its leaders. 

In May of 2020, Wells was posthumously awarded a Pultizer Prize Special Citation for “her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching.”

After this summer’s protests against racial injustice, the protesters gathering outside of the Tennessee State Capital re-named the area the “Ida B. Wells” plaza. There are now rumors that the Memphis Memorial Committee is considering building a statue in her honor. 

Wells taught all future journalists to hold those in power accountable, regardless of fear of retaliation and with all the vigor one can muster. 

“I’d rather go down in history as one lone Negro who dared to tell the government that it had done a dastardly thing than to save my skin by taking back what I said,” Wells said.