In a career that has spanned over 30 years, author and public historian Michelle Duster has focused on highlighting, celebrating, and documenting the contributions African Americans and women have made to the United States, including her paternal great-grandmother Ida B. Wells. She started as an advertising copywriter and has worked on articles, books, films, monuments, murals, markers, street names, and festivals.
Her essays have been included in several anthologies and her articles have been featured in various publications including Ms. Magazine,TIME, Essence, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Refinery29, The Hill, Daily Beast, People, Washington Post, and The North Star.
Her children's picture book Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth (Godwin Books) was released in January 2022 and adult book Ida B. the Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells (Atria/One Signal Publishers) was released a year before. She co-wrote the popular children’s history book, Tate and His Historic Dream; co-edited Impact: Personal Portraits of Activism; Shifts: An Anthology of Women's Growth Through Change; Michelle Obama’s Impact on African American Women and Girls; and edited two books that include the writings of Ida B. Wells.
She also consulted on the Ida B. Wells doll, released January 2022, which is part of Mattel's Inspiring Women Barbie doll series. She frequently gives presentations and participates in programs at universities, corporations, museums, and other institutions. She has given hundreds of interviews for print, radio, and television outlets including MSNBC, CNN, WTTW, CBS, WGN, & CW.
Her many awards include the 2023 Living Legacy Award from ASALH, 2022 Ripple Effect Award from Public Narratives, 2019 Multi-Generational Activist Award from the Illinois Human Rights Commission, and the 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Award from Dartmouth College. Her book Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth was honored by the Jane Addams Peace Association in 2023.
Michelle is a native Chicagoan who earned her B.A. in Psychology from Dartmouth College, and M.A. in Media Studies from The New School in New York City. She also completed MFA coursework in film and video production at Columbia College Chicago, As a creative outlet, Michelle enjoys adult coloring books and designs beaded jewelry.
Public History Projects
Speak Up and Votes for Women murals - Chicago, IL (2023)
Ida B. Wells Festival: Celebrating Bronzeville - Chicago, IL (2022 & 2023)
Ida B. Wells Doll - Mattel (2022)
On the Wings of Change (mural of 10 Chicago-area suffragists) - Chicago, IL (2021)
Light of Truth, Ida B. Wells National Monument - Chicago, IL (2021)
Ida B. Wells Way - Chicago, IL (2019)
Ida B. Wells Homes Historical Marker - Chicago, IL (2019)
Ida B. Wells Drive - Chicago, IL (2018)
Founder's Garden - Holly Springs, MS (2013)
Historical Marker for Jim and Elizabeth Wells - Holly Springs, MS (2011)
ASALH Film Festival (2012-2018) - various cities
A Question of Color - documentary film by Kathe Sandler (1993)
Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice - documentary film by William Greaves (1989)
Documentary Film Appearances
The Light of Truth: A Monument for Ida B. Wells, Rana Segal (2023)
Sankofa Chicago, Vanessa Wright (2022)
Facing Down Storms: Memphis and the Making of Ida B. Wells, University of Memphis, (2022)
Ida B. Wells: A Chicago Stories Special Documentary, WTTW (2021)
BOSS: The Black Experience in Business Firelight Media (2019)
Select Voiceovers for Films and Podcasts
We Have Just Begun (about 1919 Elaine, AR race massacre), Michael Warren Wilson, 2023
"The Daily": Women We Overlooked (segment on Ida B. Wells), New York Times, 2018
Major Project in the Works
Women's Suffrage National Monument, Washington, DC