African-American journalist Ida B. Wells went to heroic lengths in the late 1890s to document the horrifying practice of lynching blacks. Her groundbreaking work, which included collecting statistics in a practice that today is called "data journalism," established that the lawless killing of blacks was a systematic practice, especially in the South in the era following Reconstruction.
Wells became deeply interested in the lynching problem after three black businessmen she knew were killed by a white mob outside Memphis, Tennessee, in 1892.
For the next four decades she would devote her life, often at great personal risk, to campaigning against lynching.
At one point a newspaper she owned was burned by a white mob. And she was certainly no stranger to death threats. Yet she doggedly reported on lynchings and made the subject of lynching a topic which American society could not ignore.
Early Life of Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells was born into slavery on July 16, 1862, in Holly Springs, Mississippi. She was the eldest of eight children. Following the end of the Civil War, her father, who as a slave had been the carpenter on a plantation, was active in Reconstruction period politics in Mississippi.
When Ida was young she was educated in a local school, though her education was interrupted when both her parents died in a yellow fever epidemic when she was 16. She had to take care of her siblings, and she moved with them to Memphis, Tennessee, to live with an aunt.
In Memphis, Wells found work as a teacher. And she resolved to become an activist when, on May 4, 1884, she was ordered to leave her seat on a streetcar and move to a segregated car. She refused and was ejected from the train.
She began to write about her experiences, and became affiliated with The Living Way, a newspaper published by African-Americans.
In 1892 she became the co-owner of a small newspaper for African-Americans in Memphis, the Free Speech.
The horrendous practice of lynching had become widespread in the South in the decades following the