lizbrownlee – poet

Poems, animal info, extraordinary women, my books!

I is for Ida B Wells, Early Fighter Against Institutional Racism #AtoZ Challenge

Mary Garrity Restored by Adam Cuerden Based on image originally from NAEMVZELXQV2iw

at Google Cultural Institute

I wish I had more room to tell the complete story of this extraordinary woman. She was intelligent, she was brave, she never gave up, despite many, many setbacks…

Ida B Wells was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on July 16th, 1862, and died on March 25th 1931.

When she was 16 she was visiting her grandmother when she received information that both of her parents and her youngest brother had died in a yellow fever outbreak.

To save the family (6 other children) from being split up she went to work as a teacher in an elementary school. She resented the fact that she was only paid $30 whilst her white counterparts were paid $80 for exactly the same job – and this sparked a lifetime interest in suffrage, racial equality and improving the education of black people.

She moved to Memphis where teaching pay was better, and in her spare time attended two universities.

In 1884 a train conductor ordered her to give up her (paid for) seat in first class, and she refused – SEVENTY years before Rosa Parks did the same thing. She was dragged out and took the railroad to court – and won $500, which sadly she lost again on appeal, having to pay court costs.

She went on to become an activist, documenting lynching, showing it was often used as whites to control or punish black people who were in some way competing in business or otherwise with whites – and the usual excuses of ‘rapes’ or ‘criminal acts’ spurring the lynchings were in fact codswallop. (My word!)

As well as working in the Civil Rights Movement, she became prominent in the suffragist movement, establishing severable notable women’s organisations, and her ability with rhetoric earned her work as a journalist which she used as a mouthpiece for her contentious but entirely justified views.

An extraordinary woman indeed.


If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan – link below, press on book!


Facts from:





  1. Fascinating! Another incredible woman I knew nothing about.
    Um… aren’t you meant to be having the day off today!

    Susan A Eames at
    Travel, Fiction and Photos


    • Yep – darn internet problem, can’t get in here on my phone so couldn’t put this right! All done now though, it’ll post at the right time!


  2. Thea O'Brian

    This poor woman went through so much. I hated the slavery movement myself.
    Liz, where is your “H” blog? Am I missing something here? it is scheduled for this Monday


    • No, they were posted out of order too early because I hadn’t scheduled them – our phone line went down and with it the internet, it’s just been mended so have just righted things! Your comment will be visible when the post is!


  3. Sad that her hard-won court case was reversed on appeal. Yet she continued to move forward, spurred on by her strong beliefs. Inspiring story.


    • I know, I was thrilled when I got to that bit in the story and then so maddened by the appeal verdict. The really maddening thing I guess is that there is sTILLl so much racism – and other forms of discrimination – so that people are not judged by, treated in accordance with, respected and loved for their achievements, or their personality, but by things that don’t matter at all.


  4. I have never heard of this lady and that’s a shame! She has done a lot for her race and we could all learn from her


    • She was inspirational – such a shame it takes such a long time to get anywhere even if the cause is transparently right – just look at climate change. We are backwards if anything.


  5. I feel sad really. So many good people just never got credit for the strength and inspiring deeds they did while they were around 😦
    Especially in the matter of races.


    • It has the same effect on me. And still there are people fighting for good – against racism, for refugees, for political prisoners, for people who are starving, and for the hungry in every rich country in the world…


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