The saying, that the pen is mightier than the sword, has a great deal of resonance and relevancy in shaping the thoughts and opinions of people.  Although the sword can change some views, it is the pen that creates committed participants.  A pen can be used more effectively than a sword if used properly because it can create a well-informed army that will battle injustice and strive for everlasting social change.  Ida B. Wells turned her writing skills into a force for social change that-while not successful in accomplishing her goals- bought awareness to serious problems that haunts America to this very day.

The legacy of Ida B. Wells is tied to her advocacy as an anti-lynching crusader who shined a light on the barbaric practice of a supposedly civilized country.  In the late 19th century and early 20th century saw a rise in the lynchings of black people.  Lynching, the unlawful killing of a human being, was not considered a crime because the victims were black and their lives did not matter.  Lynchings was used as a mechanism of social control by instilling fear in people that anytime-for any reason-they may suffer humiliation and lose their life for even the tiniest of infractions.  Although commonplace below the Mason-Dixon line, cultural norms dictated that lynching was not to be discussed in public.  Ida broke that cultural norm by publicizing the practice in several mostly black owned newspapers.  Put this into context; she was a woman born into slavery who challenged power by writing/speaking up about the dignity of people who are considered disposable was unheard of in those days.

Not all of her efforts to bring social justice for black people was in vain.  In the early 20th century she helped to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the longest lasting American civil rights organization which continues to this day. Like eventual NAACP member Rosa Parks, she refused to give up her seat on a bus which was an act of defiance that resulted in swift physical and financial punishment.  Along with racial issues she was a proponent of women’s suffrage, which highlights the intersectionality of race and gender.  One question that feminism has never fully addressed is what is the role of black women?  They suffer from two distinct and harmful forms of discrimination that combines the worst oppression experienced by blacks and women.

The impact and legacy of Ida B. Wells is much richer than what can be examined in a short blog post.  What makes her story so unique is that as a black woman she assumed an activist role that is usually associated with a man.  What she represents to an organization like Making It to The Finish Line is that despite being marginalized because of race and gender, it is possible to have an impact that can positively change human lives for the better.  Even in the face of adversity there can be some success that can lead to bigger victories down the line.  Her biography page at www.heavy.com was a valuable source for this article.

Cleary, T. (2015, July 16). http://heavy.com/news/2015/07/ida-b-wells-153rd-birthday-google-doodle-photos-bio-legacy-mississippi-african-american-black-journalist-newspaper-editor-suffragist-civil-rights/. Retrieved October 2, 2016, from http://heavy.com/news/2015/07/ida-b-wells

 

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