Ida B. Wells was born a slave and eventually became a teacher. In 1883, she sued the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad because they forbade her from sitting in the ladies coach. She then wrote an article about it, which gained success and influenced her career change to journalist. When three of her male friends, who were upstanding, law-abiding, successful businessmen (in direct competition with white businessmen), were lynched on the pretext of a crime they did not commit, Wells wrote about the situation with a clarity and forcefulness that riveted the attention of both blacks and whites. This created a major controversy causing her enemies to burn her presses, put a price on her head, and threatened her life if she returned to the South causing her to remain in exile for almost forty years.
Ida took this incredible leap of faith because she felt very strongly for this cause. She was a slave at one time in her life and she knew what it felt like to be mistreated. When three of her friends, who became very successful in life, were lynched for absolutely no reason, she realized that she must use her writing power to address this unfair balance of power to the public in hopes to put an end to it.
Two questions I would ask Ida if she showed up to class on Tuesday:
- Did you think that the article would cause problems before you published it? If so, did you fear that you may have been lynched just like your three friends?
- What served as your motivation to publish this article despite your fears?