In God She Trust: the biography of Ida B. Wells Barnett (Originally Published with

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God has raised up a modern Deborah in the person of Miss Ida B. Wells, whose voice has been heard throughout England and the United States…pleading as only she can plead for justice and fair treatment to be given her long-suffering and unhappy people…(Duster, 1970, 1972: xiii)

Ida B. Wells-Barnett in her lifetime from 1862 to 1931 was an early judge (condemner) of racism in American, like Deborah in the Holy Bible was an early judge of evil in Israel. Deborah aroused the scattered tribes to oppose Canaanite oppression (Judges 4:5). Ida aroused the scattered interests of many black people to oppose their oppression.

As a journalist and political activist, Ida fought evil by almost single-handedly organizing an international anti-lynching campaign. She also was the first black person in the south to bring legal action against a railroad for discrimination. A founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, she set up the Negro Fellowship League that provided jobs and a reading room for disadvantaged blacks in Chicago and a she was a leader in starting organizations for black women.

Deborah drew her strength from God, and so did Ida. Ida’s parents were deeply religious people who influenced her with an identity and a path in life defined by the Bible. Ida, who had read the Bible many times throughout her life learned how living under God’s laws brought a woman like Deborah to Heave, and how women like Eve who did not follow the Lord’s words were punished. Ida spent her life paving a path to Heaven by fighting evil.

Evil is defined in the Bible as “…wickedness; a slanderous or injurious action” (The Holy Bible, New King James version 1982; 9). She spent her life-fighting evil and living a good Christian life. The essay will show how religious beliefs influenced her journalism career, anti-lynching crusade, forming organizations for black women and her choice to be a wife and mother. Beginning with her childhood, the beginnings of Ida’s religiously influenced life will be discussed.

Ida Wells was born in Tippan County, Mississippi, on July 16, 1862, before the close of the Civil War (Thompson, 1990; 11). Wells family lived in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Her parents, Jim and Elizabeth Wells, were married as slaves and married again after being free. The qualities of Ida’s parents “…fused to add fire and zeal” (Duster 1970, 1972; xiv) to her character.

Ida’s mother, who worked as a cook, won the prize for regular attendance at Sunday school, taking all six of her children along with her. On Sundays, Ida was allowed to read nothing else but the Bible, so she read it repeatedly. Her mother, who had not received an education under slavery, would follow her children to school. Elizabeth Wells became literate from learning to read the Bible. The associations Ida had with her mother were religious ones. Elizabeth Wells instilled the beliefs of the Bible in Ida. Her mother would tell her stories of how she had been “…beaten by slave owners and the hard times she had as a slave” (Duster, 1970, 1972; 9). Ida’s symbol of her mother was one of strength. It would not be hard for Ida to see how her mother’s strength and religious beliefs were associated. Ida acknowledged and respected her mother’s abilities:

She was not 40 when she died, but she had borne eight children and brought us up wit ha strict discipline that many mothers who have had educational advantages have not exceeded (Duster, 1970, 1972; 9).

The Bible says like mother, like daughter (Ezekiel 16:44). Ida following her religious teachings modeled many of her ways after her mother. Ida’s father also helped to add “fire and zeal” to Ida’s character:

My earliest recollections are of reading the newspaper to my father and an admiring group of his friends. He was interested in politics and I heard the words Ku Klux Klan long before I knew what they meant (Duster, 1070, 1972; 9).

Ida learned from an early age that she could be a smart woman and keep the admiration of her father. Her father, a carpenter, was involved in the Holly Springs community as a trustee at Rust College, a school founded by Reverend A. C. McDonald and the Freemen’s Aid in 1866. Ida attended Rust College throughout her childhood. Her father often exemplified Christian values in dealing with people.

In 1878 a yellow fever epidemic broke out in Holly Springs. When it broke out, Ida was told by a doctor how her father, while working, would pass through the town’s courthouse that was also being used as a hospital. When he saw sick people he would comfort them and when he saw dead people, he would pray with them.

Ida grew up with a strong and kind father who was proud of her intelligence. Ida’s interest in politics developed from reading the news to her father. She also came to value community involvement by her father’s influence. Ida grew up in a religious household wit ha strong mother and a kind and respected father. The qualities of her parents influenced her long after they died.

In 1878, her parents died of yellow fever during the Holly Springs epidemic. Friends of Jim Wells became guardians to the Wells family and they found different homes for the children. The eldest of six children, at 16-years-old, Ida wanted to keep the family together (Duster, 1970, 1972; xvi). She said her “…father and mother [would] turn over in their graves to know their children had been scattered like that…” (Duster, 1970, 1972; 16).

Honouring her father and mother like the Ten Commandments in the Bible says, Ida with money her father left her and a teaching job took care of the family. Her grandmother also helped her out:

Ida Wells’ youthful experience as guardian and provider for five siblings was preparation for the independence and determination that she exhibited throughout her life (Thompson 1990; 127).

Proverb 20:11 in the Bible says, “even a child is known by his deeds/by whether what he does is pure and right.” Ida knew acting as her siblings’ guardian was the pure and right thing to do. Bringing up her siblings was only one of the examples of how Ida’s religious upbringing affected the way she lived her life. She clung to a good life (as defined by the bible) is hoping to pave a path to Heave. One way that she brought herself closer to Heaven was by fighting evil.

Evil is defined in the Bible as “…wickedness; slanderous or injurious actions” (The Holy Bible, New King James Version, 1982; 9). She fought evil with the written word.

Many of Ida’s siblings grew up and out of her care, and an aunt took care of two younger girls. Ida secured a position in Memphis as a teacher. In Memphis was the first she heard of the A.M.E. church and saw a black bishop, whose name was bishop Turner.

The bishops I had known were scholarly, saintly men in the Methodist Episcopal Church and most of the pastors we had were the same. All my teachers had been consecrated white men and women from the north who came to the south to teach immediately after the end of the war. It was they who brought us the light of knowledge and their splendid example of Christian courage (Duster, 1970, 1972; 22).

Through her parents’ experience with slavery and what she had read of politics, Ida knew of the evils white people had done to blacks. However, through religion, she also knew the good of some white people.

Ida expected a lot from religious leaders. Seeing religion as a way to help in daily life, she faulted preachers who did not give people in the congregation practical talks. She found that in the country, “…people needed guidance in everyday life and that the leaders, the preachers, were not giving them this help” (Duster, 1970,1972; 22). She found people would come to her with their problems because as their teacher, she had been their leader, “…but I knew nothing of life except what I had read” (Duster, 1970, 1972; 22). Ida, being a woman, did not have the opportunity to be a preacher like Bishop Turner and give people in the church religious help they needed. She did know a lot about life through reading, having spent much of her time forming her ideas on May Alcott’s, Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney’s and Charlotte Brontë’s books (Duster, 1970, 1972; 21). She had never read anything about black people. By writing for the Living Way, she wrote about black people, preached the gospel and fought evil.

Always cherishing the friendships of religious leaders, her association with Reverend R. N. Countee, pastor of one of the leading Baptist churches and publisher of the Living Way, got Ida an invitation to write for the paper in her spare time away from teaching. The Living Way, a religious weekly was started in 1874 and was for the interest of Negro Americans.

I had an instinctive feeling that people who had little or no school training should have something coming into their homes weekly which dealt with their problems in a simple, helpful way. So in weekly letters to the Living Way, I wrote in plain, common-sense way on the things which concerned our people (Duster, 1970, 1972; 23, 24).

In 1886, at 24 years old, she began a writing career. She signed her name more simply as “Iola,” rather than Ida B. Wells so it was easier for readers to remember her name. With the Living Way, Ida could help black people with their daily problems by offering religious advice, the same things she wanted preachers to do in church. Her writing gave her a chance to fight the evil of such things as poor quality school buildings for black children. Her article on the school buildings resulted in her losing her teaching job.

…I thought it was right to strike a blow against a glaring evil and I did not regret it. Up to that time I had felt that any fight made in the interest of the race would have its support. I learned then that I could not count on that (Duster, 1970, 1972; 37).

Not only id Ida lose her job, but many of the parents who had children in the schools told her she should not have done something that would have her fired. Ida may not have had the support of others, but she received her support from the words of the Bible: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). Losing her teaching job turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it led her to be able to devote her full attention to writing. Ida got a new job with the encouragement of Reverend William J. Simmons, D.D. who was among many things, editor of the Negro Press Association:

In every way he could, Dr. Simmons encouraged me to be a newspaperwoman, and whatever fame I achieved in that line I owe in large measure to his influence and encouragement (Duster, 1970, 1972; 32).

He began to pay Ida $1.00 a week to be a correspondent with his paper. She received a lot of attention as a newspaperwoman, she was the first woman representative of the paper at a press convention in Louisville, Kentucky. With journalism, some of the work she did was influenced by traditional gender role expectations. She edited the Home Department of “Our Women and Children” for Dr. Simmons. She also wrote editorials criticizing the treatment of blacks by whites. The praise she received compared her accomplishments to men:

She has become famous as one of the few of our women who handle a goose quill with a diamond point as easily as any man in newspaper work. If Iola were a man she would be a humming independent in politics. She has plenty of nerve and is as sharp as a steel trap (Duster, 1970, 1972; 33).

‘Iola’ has been called the Princess of the Press, and she has well earned the title. No writer, the male fraternity not excepted, has been more extensively quoted, none struck harder blows at the wrongs and weaknesses of the race. Her readers are equally divided between the sexes. …She believes there is no agency so potent as the press in reaching and elevating a people (Duster, 1970, 1972; 33).

Ida’s journalistic work was seen as equal to a man’s in importance and it was acknowledged for its efforts at uplifting her race. Her political actions through writing were influenced by her father Jim who did not isolate her mental abilities around men. Ida expected to be treated as an equal when it came to her journalism career.

In 1869, at 27 years old, she bought one-third of the interest in a Memphis newspaper for black people with her savings from work. The newspaper was called the Free Speech and Headlight and she became the editor. She refused to be part of the paper unless she was an equal partner with Reverend F. Nightingale and J. L. Fleming who also owned it. The reverend was the pastor of the largest congregation in the state, so 500 copies of the Free Speech were sold every Sunday in his church. Ida’s involvement with journalism gave her an opportunity for things many women could not do in the 1880’s.

Being a female editor and correspondent was a novelty at that time (Duster, 1970, 1972; 39). It gave her an opportunity for travel, which would be socially accepted because it was a paper that was sold to and appealed to religious people. She traveled to solicit subscribers for the Free Speech in order to make a living from the paper. She did not seek to be rich because of the love of money, as the Bible says, was the root of all kinds of evil (I Timothy 6:10). Her lack of seeking riches kept her as a white-collar working class person. But the publicity her work gave her exposed her to upper-class people, like members of a lawyer’s association, where she solicited to get newspaper subscriptions. Newspaper work helped to give Ida a good name, “a good name is be chosen rather than great riches, loving favour rather than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1).

…my good name was all that I had in the world…I was bound to protect it from attack by those who felt that they could do so with impunity because I had no brother or father to protect it for me (Duster, 1970, 1972; 44).

A minister she stayed with while soliciting subscriptions to the paper made remarks to discredit Ida to friends. The remarks were that southern girls were not morally virtuous. Ida confronted the revered with his comments and made him publicly apologize to her.

I also wanted him to know that virtue was not all a matter of the section in which one lived; that many a slave woman had fought and died rather than yield to the pressure and temptations to which she was subjected. I had heard many tales of such and I wanted him to know at least one southern girl, born and bred, who had tried to keep herself spotless and morally clean as my slave mother had taught me (Duster, 1970, 1972; 44).
Her mother’s teachings instilled the value of a woman’s good name and the reputation that went with a woman’s name. Those who through slanderous actions soiled her name were evil and she fought against them. Her fight to defend her name and retain her honour as a black woman later became a fight against lynching. Ida learned the evil of lynching first-hand by becoming a surviving victim to its wicked ways.

In March of 1862, it was the lynching of Ida Wells’ good friend Thomas Moss that changed the course of her life and prompted her religious fight against lynching.

After the 1883 Supreme Court decision to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1875, contempt for black Americans was epitomized by lynchings that increased in number and violence…estimates [show] that this form of brutality in the United States reached a peak average of 150 a year during the 1880s and the 1890s, excluding the exceptional year 1892 when 235 lynchings took place. Most of these incidents occurred in the rural south (Meier, 1968; 20).

Ida was unable to expose the evils of lynching in the churches herself and began her anti-lynching crusade for justice with help of the Free Speech. Just as Deborah with God’s will was able to stop the evil against the children of Israel by encouraging them to confront their oppressors (Judges 5:7), Ida leads a campaign to speak out, through writing to as many people as she could about the injustices of lynching.

Moss was reported just before his death to have urged black people to go west because there was no justice for them in the south (Duster, 1970, 1972; 51). As Deborah encouraged Barak to go to Mount Tabor to build a strong army against the oppressors (Judges 4:6). Ida with the help of the Free Speech prompted blacks in editorials and articles to move from Memphis:

Memphis had never seen such an upheaval among colored people. Business was practically at a stand-still, for the Negro was famous then, as now, for spending his money for fine clothes, furniture, jewelry, and pianos and other musical instruments, to say nothing of good things to eat (Duster, 1970, 1972; 53).

While away from Memphis, seeking to banish white-made rumours that migrating black people were in worse places than Memphis, Ida was threatened to be killed by whites if she returned home. After she left, an editorial that appeared in the Free Speech, May of 1892, stirred up anger among whites:

Eight Negroes lynched since the last issue of the Free Speech. Three were charged with killing white men and five with raping white women. Nobody in this section believes the old threadbare lie that Negro men assault white women. If Southern white men are not careful they will over-reach themselves and a conclusion will be reached which will be very damaging to the moral reputation of their women (Duster, 1970, 1972; 65-66).

Ida never feared the lynch mob, she had faith in God to protect her: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalms 23:4). A threat to her life was not going to stop her from her crusade.

I had bought a pistol the first thing after Tom Moss was lynched because I expected some cowardly retaliation from the lynchers. I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or a rat in a trap…I felt if I could take one lyncher with me, this would even up the score a little bit (Duster, 1970, 1972; 62).

As the Bible says, Ida saw taking the life of a lyncher to simply be an “eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21). Ida Wells never got to use the pistol on the white people in Memphis who threatened her life. After the death threat, she did not return to her home. Instead, she stayed in New York and became co-editor of a newspaper called the New York Age. The Age was an important newspaper to black people (Aptheker, 1982; 67).

In the north of the United States where lynching was not as frequent, Ida Wells was exposed to more people who supported her anti-lynching efforts. She was fortunate to grow up with advantages that made her a member of the middle-class. She was in social circles of other black people with money who could help her fight evil. Once in New York, she felt an obligation to all black people “…to tell the whole truth [about lynching] now that I was where I could do so freely” (Duster, 1970, 1972; 69).

Before the lynching of Thomas Moss, Ida, like many other Americans, was mislead to believe by the white-owned news media that there was a justification for lynching. She thought that most of the time, black men were lynched because they raped white women and thus, the man deserved his life taken (Duster, 1970, 1972; 64). The lynching of Thomas Moss made her realize the wickedness of lynching. Seeing that a good man like Moss could be killed for simply quarreling with white men. She wondered how many other black people could have died innocent of a crime. As the Bible says, “and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:22). Ida looked for the truth. She looked into the names, dates, and places of many lynchings of alleged rapists. The facts showed illicit associations between black men and white women. Due to the fact Ida had lived in the south, she knew such relationships between white men and black women were notorious. They had breached the black race. The offspring of these unions were known as mulattoes, quadroons, and octoroons.

I also found that what the white man of the south practices as all right for himself, he assumed to be unthinkable in white women. They could and did fall in love with the pretty mulatto and quadroon girls as well as black ones, but they professed an inability to imagine white women doing the same thing with Negro and mulatto men. Whenever they did so and were found out, the cry of rape was raised, and the lowest element of the white south was turned loose to wreak its fiendish cruelty on those too weak to help themselves (Duster, 1970, 1972; 70).

Rather than hold white women responsible for their relationships with black men, black women were blamed.

Many aspects of slavery had carved out the image of the promiscuous black female. Slaves were not allowed to legally marry, meaning many black women were having six without marriage. In the 19th century, women like Rose Williams in Texas was forced to have sex with a black man to breed more slaves (Norton, 1989; 150). Inferior views of black women made their sexual purity valued the same way as cattle, whose only purpose was to breed good animals for labour. The same Bible from which Ida drew strength, southern whites used to justify the inferiority of blacks.

Black men were expected to be sexually potent to satisfy their lustful women.

Now released from the constraints of white masters, the black man found white women so ‘alluring’ and ‘seductive’ because…of the ‘wantonness of the women of his own race’ (Giddings, 1984; 31).

Ida knew the negative image of black women embodied in the justification of lynching slandered and injured her name and her identity. This was exemplified in the comments the reverend made about southern women. She saw evil in the lynching that affected the good name of black women like herself, her mother and others. She found other black women who also wanted to fight lynching and defend their honour.

In October of 1892, Ida Wells published the conclusions of her investigations of lynchings, with the help of her wealthy black female friends. Influential black women like Boston’s Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, a suffragist, activist, and wife of a prominent legislator and judge. She planned a gathering that collected $500 to help Ida Wells publish a pamphlet called Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases (Giddings, 1984; 30). Ida Wells dedicated Southern Horrors to “…the Afro-American women…whose race love, earnest zeal and unselfish effort made possible this publication” (Giddings, 1984; 30). She later published two other pamphlets on lynchings, A Red Record in 1895 and Mob Rule in New Orleans in 1900.

Ida fought the evil of lynching with the fellowship of other black women that started organizations for black women. The Bible said, through the efforts of the apostle Paul, the importance of finding “…the right hand of fellowship”(Galatians 2:9) in defending the gospel. The gospel says a gracious woman retains honour (Proverb 11:16). The organization consisted mainly of women of the same social class as Ida Wells. Between 1892 and 1894, clubs spread throughout America, because of Ida’s anti-lynching campaign. It was also seen as a good time for the black women’s club movement to get its start (Giddings, 1984; 83). White women abolitionists had started organizations for women in the 1840s and 1850s (Norton, 1989; 387). Many black women were not interested in joining the white women’s movement. “In their worldview, many of the obstacles that white women faced simply didn’t apply to their circumstances” (Giddings, 1984; 52). Black women all over America were succeeding, like Mary Church Terrell and Sojourner Truth, however black women often did not have the opportunity to collectively display their talents and the club movement gave them a chance to do so. The image of black women was inhibiting them from being respected n American society. Some organizations led by white women ignored such things as suffrage rights exemplified by the Women’s Council of the Methodist Episcopal Church (Norton, 1989; 316). It was time for black women to help out in the campaign for racial and sexual equality, as trailblazers like Maria Stewart had called for since 1832. Stewart, an abolitionist, had spoken of the important role black women had to play in the race’s moral and intellectual development (Giddings, 1984; 50). Seeking allies overseas to fight the evil in America, Ida began an international anti-lynching campaign.

In 1893, a lynching in Texas got worldwide press coverage. Two women reformers in Scotland, Isabelle Mayo, and Catherine Impey, read of the lynching. They wanted someone to come to the British Isles to lecture on lynching and they came to invite Ida.

At 31 years old, Ida preached the evils of American lynching, from April to June, throughout the United Kingdom. She was so well received there that she returned to England a second time in 1894 to continue her fight against evil.

Many whites were particularly concerned about English opinion. The views of the British elite carried great prestige in the minds of their American cousins. More importantly, England’s role as their leading importer of American cotton gave British views additional weight in American affairs. And here was Wells, arousing the same kind of moral indignation that had proven so useful to American abolitionists in the antebellum days (Giddings, 1984; 90).

Before she left the United Kingdom for the last time, the British Anti-lynching Committee was formed and it included such notables as the Duke of Argyll, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and members of parliament (Giddings, 1984; 92).

Her planting of good seeds overseas bore fruit in the American anti-lynching campaign.

The number of lynchings decreased in 1893 – and continued to do so thereafter. The decline in the murders can be directly attributed to the efforts of Ida B. Wells. The effect of Wells’ campaign was aptly demonstrated in her home city. Memphis exported more cotton than any other city in the world, and Wells’ assertions had been especially damaging to its image. So, as a direct result of her efforts, the city fathers were pressed to take an official stand against lynching – and for the next twenty years, there was not another incident of vigilante violence there (Tucker, 1990; 1394).

The American white-owned press persecuted Ida for successfully fighting evil overseas. Yet, Ida could again know her good work lead her closer to Heaven through God’s words: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). The persecution and criticism she received focused on discrediting her as a black woman, exemplifying the evil slander towards many black women:

A Memphis paper suggested that she be tied to a stake and branded with an iron. The New York Times ran an article insisting that Black men were prone to rape and that Wells was a ‘slanderous and nasty-minded mulatress’ who was looking for more ‘income’ than ‘outcome’ (Giddings, 1984; 92).

The Indianapolis Freemen, a black newspaper, wrote of Ida Wells, referring to her by her pen name: “’Iola makes the mistake of trying to be pretty as well as smart. She should remember that beauty and genius are not always companions’” (Tucker, 1990; 1386).

The Bible has done much to influence the view of blacks as inferior, for those who interpret it that way. It has also done much to portray women as inferior from the very beginning with the interpretation of Eve giving into sin and thus causing the fall of man from God’s grace. Ida by-passed this barrier of religious thought by her own interpretation of the Bible echoed by women like Maria Stewart:

‘What if I am a woman?’ Stewart declared. ‘Did [God] not raise up Deborah to be a mother, and a judge in Israel? Did not Queen Esther save the lives of the Jews? And Mary Magdalene first declare the resurrection of Christ from the dead?’ (Giddings, 1984; 52).

Stewart also challenged the views of men like St. Paul who said it was a shame for women to speak in public (Giddings; 53). Stewart believed that at different times, St. Paul would see things differently and so must have Ida. The importance of her mission to fight evil and her duty to God made gender restraints non-existent and it also gave her a chance to earnestly preach the gospel as she was unable to do in churches.

I am only a mouthpiece through which to tell the story of lynching and I have told it so often that I know it by heart. I do not have to embellish; it makes its own way (Duster, 1970, 1972; 231).

In July of 1893, at 33 years old, Ida married Ferdinand Barnett, a man who was also devoted to fighting evil against blacks. Ida and her husband begot four children. Their first child was Charles, followed by Herman, Ida, and Alfreda (Duster, 1970, 1972; xxiii). She mothered her children the way she was mothered, “…a kind and loving parent, but firm and strict…her ‘look’ was enough to bring under control any mischievous youngster” (Duster, 1970, 1972; xxiii-xxiv). Knowing that according to the Bible even children were judged by their deeds, Ida saw the good conduct of her children in her absence as most important. Both parents stressed education, producing children who all led good lives, having careers in everything from the printing business to civic activity in parent-teacher associations.

The Barnett family had power and influence in Chicago. They lived in an upper-middle-class neighbourhood that did not stop them from helping the poor by means of the Negro Fellowship League. As the Bible says, “he who gives to the poor will not lack” (Proverbs 28:27). Ida’s civic duties did not cease, but they did decrease.

Ida married older than most women because her political activities and journalism career did not give her time for a family. When she gave her time to her family, it did not give her a lot of time for her political activities. Marriage was very important to Ida, having a family was part of the Christian values that would lead to her rewards in Heaven. In 1897, after the birth of her second son and viewing motherhood as a profession in itself, Ida became a full-time mother and homemaker:

…I wonder if women who shirk their duties in that respect [motherhood] truly realize that they have not only deprived humanity of their contribution to perpetuity but that they have robbed themselves of one of the most glorious advantages in the development of their own womanhood (Duster, 1970, 1972; 251).

Ida did not take any work outside the home until the youngest child was eight-years-old and able to attend school alone. When Ida slowed down her political activities, she was missed by many of her supporters. While she was a guest to suffragist Susan B. Anthony’s home, Anthony expressed disappointment in Ida marrying and having children:
‘I know of no one in all this country better fitted to do the work you had in hand than yourself. Since you have gotten married, agitation seems practically to have ceased…you have a divided duty (Duster, 1970, 1972; 255).

Considering how dedicated and successful Ida was in her political activities and journalism career, it is surprising that those elements did not become the sole focus of her life. As Maria Stewart, a religious convert had asserted earlier, Ida did not see why her political activities needed to stop because she was a wife and mother:

Black women saw no contradiction between domesticity and political action. So Stewart could talk about dependence on men and excel in good housewifery, and at the same time make an unmistakably feminist appeal to Black women (Gidding, 1984; 52).

Ida could still fight evil even though she was a wife and mother. Even while married, Ida still did political activities such as helping to form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909 and making a bid for the state senate in 1930.

At 69-years-old, in 1931, Ida died of a urine disorder called uremia (Duster, 1970, 1972; xxxi). Would she have gone to Heaven? Deborah in the Bible rejoiced in a song of her achievements in Israel, “Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel, until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7). Ida had much to rejoice about. She honoured her parents and kept her family together by raising her siblings herself. Influenced by religious leaders, her journalism career exposed the wicked, slanderous and injurious actions perpetrated against black people. Her organized fellowship with black women developed organizations for black women – their work combated their negative image. Her anti-lynching efforts in the United Kingdom caused lynchings in the United States to decrease. Her exemplifications of religious values left a memory of a woman that still lives in Ida B. Wells Clubs across the country and the Ida B. Wells Garden Homes that serve disadvantaged people. She lived a good life in which she deserved to rest in Heaven.

Depart from evil, and do good;
And dwell forever more.
For the Lord loves justice,
And does not forsake His saints;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked shall be
cut off.
The righteous shall inherit the land,
And dwell in it forever.


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