It would be a fitting honor for the journalism school at the University of Mississippi to be renamed after my great-grandmother Ida B. Wells. She was a native Mississippian who was a trailblazer in the field. She used investigative journalism as a tool to expose injustice, inequality, and domestic terrorism in a way that challenged the power structure of our country. Despite the fact that she faced great danger and her printing press was destroyed, she never backed down from documenting facts and telling the truth. Her contribution to journalism is immeasurable and should be an inspiration and model for all who study the field.
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.
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.
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