Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for Ida B. Wells (May)
It is an amazing honor for my great-grandmother Ida B Wells to be awarded a posthumous 2020 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation. She spent almost fifty years of her life fighting for justice. She did not have the right to vote until she was in her 50s. She had modest financial resources. So the only thing she had to fight against racist oppression and the violent practice of lynching, was the truth.
Ida used journalism as a tool to fight for justice. She faced great danger and endured harsh criticism. Her printing press was destroyed. Her life was threatened. But she truly believed that by collecting names, dates, and circumstances around the lynchings that she could transform attitudes and impact policy and laws.
The fact that she received this honor in 2020 is fitting. It is the centennial of the 19th Amendment and an election year. So all of her work is relevant in the context of where we are today in this historic moment.
When White Women's Silence Endangers Black Women (March)
(For Truth-Telling: Frances Willard and Ida B Wells Project)
Ida B. Wells, who was born enslaved, became a well-educated teacher, journalist and civil rights activist. She and her contemporaries were not treated with the same level of dignity and respect as white women who sometimes did not have the same level of education. Wells chronicled the extreme violence and lawlessness through newspaper articles, pamphlets and speeches. In order to bring a higher level of attention to this domestic terrorism, Wells solicited help from the wealthy Frances Willard who had a huge platform that she could have used to combat the lawlessness taking place. Willard chose not to use that platform, leaving Wells alone in her voice against lynching. The narrow-minded focus Willard placed on temperance, without working in a bigger context that took into consideration the extreme danger that affected Black women in a different way that a white woman’s life ever could be, was coming from a place of privilege. Willard’s silence hurt her reputation as being a forward-thinking socially-conscious person, but it also hurt Wells’s cause.
Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project (January)
The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project is a very important public art project that would recognize the people who were victims of unbridled injustice. For too long, the torrid history of our country has been erased, undertaught, and underrecognized, which has created a skewed sense of historical reality. The lives lost during the bloodiest incident of racialized violence meant something. They were not simply "collateral damage" in the path of rage, but each person had a name, a family, a job and were part of a community. The victims deserve to be remembered. The more we in the USA teach, learn and recognize all aspects of our true history, the closer we will get to living up to the idea of being an equal and just society for all.
Virginia Ratification of ERA (August)
The Equal Rights Amendment states that the rights guaranteed by the Constitution apply equally to all persons regardless of their sex. I am happy to know Virginians are working diligently to ensure Virginia will be the 38th state to ratify it. Since 1923, when it was first introduced by Alice Paul, our country has stalled for decades in making it part of the law for women to be considered full citizens. This ratification comes two years before the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment where all women “in theory” gained the right to vote.
In 1913, my great-grandmother, Ida B. Wells, founded the Alpha Suffrage Club -- the first organization of all African American women to form around voting rights. Despite her work, she and the other African American women were asked to march in the back of the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, DC. My ancestor refused, and inserted herself into the front of the Illinois delegation where she belonged. It was a victory for women to gain the right to vote 98 years ago. However, most Black women – especially in the South – have only enjoyed that right for 45 years. It took decades of struggle to overcome state and local legal barriers that prevented them from casting ballots until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law.
Now after five decades of progress it is ironic that in 2018, when the Equal Rights Amendment is on the verge of complete ratification, that there is such an effort by some to revoke and challenge many of the gains and freedoms that women have experienced. As a descendant of a leader who spent her life fighting for justice and equality for both women and African Americans, it is disappointing to see that we are still fighting for some of the dignity and equal protection under the law she fought for.
The ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment will be a huge step for all Americans. I am encouraged by Virginia’s efforts and the fight will continue for absolute equality until victory is won for all on every front. Thank you to everyone who is working tirelessly to have this ratification come to fruition. I feel confident that Virginia will make it possible for the rights of all persons regardless of their sex to be guaranteed under the Constitution.
Renaming of Congress Parkway (July)
I am happy and relieved that the city of Chicago has decided to honor my great-grandmother, Ida B. Wells, in a way that is befitting to the contributions she made the city, country and world. During her lifetime, she worked tirelessly for decades to fight for justice and equality for all. As an American-born woman, who lived in Chicago for over three decades, all Chicagoans, as well as visitors should be able to remember who she was, what she did, and celebrate her. I appreciate all who helped to make the re-naming of Congress Parkway into Ida B.Wells Drive. This is a great start to women in general, and African American women in particular, getting their proper recognition and acknowledgment in this country.
Civil War Monument Not Tied to Ida B. Wells Monument (April)
Ida B. Wells was a journalist, a civil rights activist and a suffragist. She also was a wife, mother and elder whose matriarchal influence on my family remains strong and intact. I hope that those who invoke her legacy, image and work do so in a positive manner that is consistent with the spirit of truth, justice and inclusion with which she lived her life. As her great-granddaughter, I would like to see a monument to my ancestor created without it being tied to the destruction or removal of something else.
Author, Speaker, Educator
Great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells