When you hear the name Ida B. Wells, what words come to mind? Journalist? Civil rights activist? Suffragette? Abolitionist? Indeed, all these words accurately describe Ida B. Wells, but there is another word that describes her just as accurately as all the others, and probably, it is one that will surprise you. That word is Republican
On July 16, 1861, Ida B. Wells was born in Holly, Mississippi, to former slaves. As a child of parents who became active leaders in the Republican Party and founded both the Freedman’s Aid Society as well as Shaw University, Ida seems to have been born with activism in her blood.
Ida’s first significantly public struggle for racial equality began upon the heels of the passage of the 1875 Civil Rights Act, which had been passed into law by Republicans. While traveling on a train by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Company, Ida was asked to give up her seat to a white man. She refused and was dragged off the train. Undeterred, the bold Ms. Wells went on to hire an attorney and sued the railroad company. The lawsuit was initially successful – she won her case in the local circuit courts; however, the railroad company appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. Yet the attention that disappointing outcome garnered sparked her journalism career, and it was from the journalist’s platform that Ida was able to highlight the many racial injustices of that time, to include mob lynchings. This resulted in many African Americans abandoning the South for better racial horizons in northern States. She also won awards for her journalism.
Ida likewise abandoned the South and settled in Illinois. After becoming disheartened by the power-obsessed politicos seeking their personal advancement ahead of the public good, Ida decided to run for public office, and did so as a Republican candidate. As a result of that decision, she is credited with being the first African American woman to run for public office.
Another of Ida’s noteworthy achievements was being a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which she did alongside W.E.B Dubois in 1909.
During Black History Month 2020, the Republican Women of Frederick County are proud to salute fellow Republican Ida B. Wells: journalist, civil rights activist, NAACP co-founder, and the first African American woman to run for public office.