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date: 26 October 2020

Wells-Barnett, Ida Bell locked

(16 July 1862–25 Mar. 1931),
  • Paula J. Giddings


antilynching reformer and journalist, was born Ida Bell Wells, the first of eight children born to James Wells, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Arrington, a cook, in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Her parents worked for Spires Boling, a contractor and architect, as slaves and then as free blacks until 1867, when James Wells, against the wishes of his employer, exercised his new right to vote. After returning from the polls to find his carpentry shop locked, Wells moved the family to a house nearby and went into business for himself. In Holly Springs, Ida Wells attended a freedmen's school, of which her father was a trustee, and Shaw University (later Rust College), founded by the Freedmen's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church and incorporated in 1870.

Ida Wells's early life as a “happy, light-hearted schoolgirl” (Duster, 16) was upended in 1878 when both of her ...

A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.

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