Black History Month: 7 notable African American political activists who predate MLK Jr.

Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells (1862-1931)
Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) | Wikimedia Commons

Ida B. Wells was a notable journalist and activist, probably best known for spreading awareness about white supremacist violence against blacks in the post-Reconstruction South.

Born to an enslaved family in Mississippi during the Civil War, Wells was involved in the women's rights movement, urban improvements and efforts to advance racial equality.

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According to Arlisha R. Norwood of the National Women's History Museum, Wells became focused on anti-lynching efforts after one of her friends became the victim of white mob violence.

"She became skeptical about the reasons black men were lynched and set out to investigate several cases. She published her findings in a pamphlet and wrote several columns in local newspapers [in Memphis, Tennessee]," wrote Norwood.

"Her expose about an 1892 lynching enraged locals, who burned her press and drove her from Memphis. After a few months, the threats became so bad she was forced to move to Chicago, Illinois."

In her autobiography, originally published in 1970 (decades after her death in 1931), Wells famously declared, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

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