July 16, 2015
Ida B. Wells' 153rd Birthday
Ida B. Wells, born in 1862, proved that words can be extremely powerful — strong enough to fight even the most entrenched segregation and discrimination.
Wells was a voracious reader, and had devoured the entirety of Shakespeare and Dickens before she turned twenty. A gifted writer and orator, she was unabashedly candid--in her diaries, she describes the heroine of Les Miserables as “sweet, lovely and all that, but utterly without depth… fit only for love, sunshine [and] flowers.”
Such sweetness was simply not her style. Fearless and uncompromising, she was a fierce opponent of segregation and wrote prolifically on the civil injustices that beleaguered her world. By twenty-five she was editor of the Memphis-based Free Speech and Headlight, and continued to publicly decry inequality even after her printing press was destroyed by a mob of locals who opposed her message.
In 1894, while living in Chicago, she became a paid correspondent for the broadly distributed Daily Inter Ocean, and in 1895 she assumed full control of the Chicago Conservator.
As Matt Cruickshank illustrates in today’s Doodle, Wells also traveled the world to help people learn how to take a stand against injustice. She co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and established the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago. One of her most important actions as a suffragette was to oppose the idea that black and white contingents should march separately. At the National American Woman Suffrage Association parade in 1913, she marched with white delegates, showing that different types of discrimination must often be fought together. Wells continued to work for full political rights for all American women for the rest of her life.
Today, for her 153rd birthday, we salute Ida B. Wells with a Doodle that commemorates her journalistic mettle and her unequivocal commitment to the advancement of civil liberties.
Early visual explorations by Doodler Matt Cruickshank