Honors, at Last, for Ida B. Wells, “a Sword Among Lions”

I was pleased to learn from this article, by the Editorial Board of The New York Times, that my hometown has finally recognized one of the most courageous persons in U.S. history. She deserves to be included among the role models people need — especially young people and especially today.

Let us all “rejoice and be glad” for Ida B. Wells.

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Chicago commemorates a crusading hero who never got the recognition she deserved.

The Chicago City Council made a timely and historic decision last week when it renamed a prominent downtown street for the pioneering newspaper editor, anti-lynching campaigner and suffragist Ida B. Wells. Renaming Congress Parkway as Ida B. Wells Drive comes as Wells’s descendants are preparing to commemorate their forebear with a monument — also to be built in her adopted city, Chicago — and as the country gears up for the centennial of the 19th Amendment in 2020.

Born in slavery in Mississippi in 1862, Wells grew up during Reconstruction, when constitutional rights were extended to formerly enslaved African-Americans. Black men participated in electoral politics throughout the former Confederacy. Wells took up her career as a journalist during a time “when the possibilities of racial inclusiveness and the power of unified, collective action were palpable,” the biographer Paula Giddings writes in Ida: A Sword Among Lions.

By 1892, however, when Wells turned 30, she had witnessed the passing of those halcyon days and the rise of lynch mobs throughout the South, hanging, burning and beating to death black men who dared stand up for their rights or compete with whites in business.

“The government which had made the Negro a citizen found itself unable to protect him,” Wells later wrote of this period. “It gave him the right to vote, but denied him the protection which should have maintained that right. Scourged from his home; hunted through the swamps; hung by midnight raiders, and openly murdered in the light of day, the Negro clung to his right of franchise with a heroism which would have wrung admiration from the hearts of savages.”

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Note: The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

Here is a direct link to the complete article.

To learn more about Ida B. Wells, please click here.

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