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Ida B. Wells: Investigating for Change

Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Mississippi on July 16, 1862, less than a year before the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 freed enslaved people. After moving to Tennessee when she was about 20, Wells began writing for Black newspapers, speaking out against segregated schools—which which forced Black children to go to separate schools—and other forms of discrimination in the southern states. But after a friend was killed by a mob of white people, Wells knew more had to be done.

For several months she travelled throughout the South, interviewing people and investigating records about similar attacks. Then she wrote and published the articles in a Tennessee newspaper that she co-owned. The articles told the truth about what was happening to Black people, but the stories made people angry. Some stormed her office and destroyed her press. Eventually Wells had to leave the South forever.

That dangerous experience didn't stop Wells from writing. After moving to New York City and then Chicago, she continued to report about discrimination against Black people, and her articles were read by people across the country. Using reporting methods that are still used today, she exposed conditions that African Americans were forced to live under. She died on March 25, 1931, but still inspires people to fight for change.

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