Chicago Wishes a Happy 153rd Birthday to Ida B. Wells Barnett

Chicago Wishes a Happy 153rd Birthday to Ida B. Wells Barnett
Ida B Wells (1862-1931

Ida B. Wells was born July 16, 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi to enslaved parents James Wells and Elizabeth Warrenton shortly before the Emancipation Proclamation.

She went on to become a journalist, newspaper editor, sociologist, suffragist and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

Many Chicagoans are not aware that Ida came to Chicago because of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and published a pamphlet entitled, The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition.

Both Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells distributed the pamphlet outside the Haitian Pavilion at the Chicago World’s Fair and it was estimated that through their efforts over 20,000 northerners were made brutally aware of the lynchings and other persecutions still be suffered by the African-Americans in the South.  Interestingly, the Haitian Pavilion was the only place in the Columbian Exposition where Caucasians and African-Americans could dine together without persecution.

She started working for Chicago’s first African-American Newspaper, The Chicago Conservator, in 1893 and married it’s owner and attorney Ferdinand Lee Barnett on June 27, 1895.  Mr. Barnett sold the newspaper to his new wife and she continued to publish it until 1914.

The Barnett Residence from 1919 to 1930

The Barnett Residence from 1919 to 1930

The house that the Barnett’s lived in from 1919 to 1930 is located at 3624 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and was designated a Chicago Landmark on October 2, 1995.  It became a National Historic Landmark on May 30, 1974.

Ida Bell Wells Barnett passed away after a very short illness on March 25, 1931 and the following obituary appeared in the Chicago Tribune on that very same date:

Mrs. Ida Barnett, Colored Leader, 62, Dies Suddenly

Mrs. Ida B. Wells Barnett, for many years a recognized leader of the Negro race in efforts to obtain social and economic equality in the United States, died last night at the Daily hospital after an illness of only two days. She was 62 years old.

Mrs. Barnett came to Chicago in 1893. Soon afterward she married Attorney F.L. Barnett.  About 1890 she had gone to England to lecture on lynching in the South.  She was one of the principal organizers of the Negro Fellowship Club at 3005 South State Street, a gathering place for colored youth.  In 1917 she went to Washington to present to the President and Congress a memorial of the National Equal Rights League asking that lynching be made a crime under federal law and to protest against segregation of Negro workers in government service.

Besides her husband, Mrs. Wells Barnett is survived by four children.  The family home is at 328 East Garfield Boulevard.

Both Ida and her husband, Ferdinand, are buried in Chicago’s historic Oakwoods Cemetery.

Happy 153rd Birthday to Mrs. Ida Bell Wells Burnett!


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