Ida B. Wells Honored with Historic Landmark in Hometown of Holly Springs, Mississippi

The Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum in Holly Springs, Mississippi will honor the journalist and activist with a historical marker during her birthday month.

The museum announced in a press release that it will celebrate her birthday from Friday, July 12 to Saturday, July 13 in Holly Springs, with the party’s theme set as “Building on the Past, Focusing on the Future.” The celebrations will kick off at 11 a.m. with the unveiling of engraved pavers.

On Saturday, the historical marker honoring Wells-Barnett will be unveiled at the northeast corner of the Marshall County Courthouse lawn, with special museum tours and exhibits given during the day, the press release stated. The celebrations will end with the 23rd Annual Ida B. Wells-Barnett Gala at the Rust College Shaw Cafeteria at 7 p.m. The guest speaker of the event is Virginia Bouie Wilson, the First Lady of Hudsonville Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and Holly Springs-Oxford Districts of Northeast Region of Mississippi.

Wells-Barnett, who was born on July 16, 1862, was born into slavery during the Civil War and lived in Holly Springs. After the war, her parents became politically involved with the Reconstruction Era, according to the National Women’s History Museum. Both her parents died in 1878, and she moved to Memphis, Tennessee where she became an educator to raise her siblings.

The activist fought injustice her entire life. After one of her friends was lynched, she investigated several lynching cases of Black men and published her findings in local newspapers. One of her pieces in 1892 enraged some of the locals and forced her to move to Chicago, Illinois.

Throughout her career, Wells-Barnett traveled the world to discuss lynching and “openly confronted white women in the suffrage movement who ignored lynching,” the website stated. She was ridiculed by women’s suffrage organizations but still remained active in the women’s rights movement, which led her to start the National Association of Colored Women’s Club.

Wells-Barnett was also in Niagra Falls during the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Michelle Duster, Wells-Barnett’s great-granddaughter, said in a statement to The North Star that she is proud of her great-grandmother’s hometown for celebrating and honoring her with a historical marker.

“She was an amazing woman who dedicated her life to the fight for equality, justice, and the power of the truth,” Duster said in the statement to The North Star.

“She spent her childhood in Holly Springs, so the town shaped her, educated her, and provided an environment for her to develop her political and social sensibilities. She represents the power of sticking with and believing in one's convictions. Hopefully, by learning about and celebrating her, all who come in contact with her story will be inspired by how much of an impact one person can make.”

In New York this month, city officials announced the opening of Shirley Chisholm State Park. The park, which is the largest state park in the city, holds 407 acres in Jamaica Bay and has hiking trails, a pier for fishing, and a mural of Chisholm, Curbed New York previously reported.

“Today we add another gem to our treasure trove of state parks, transforming what was once a blemish on the South Brooklyn community into exquisite open space,” New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a previous statement. “Shirley Chisholm fought to improve the health and wellness of underserved communities, a legacy we are carrying on through the Vital Brooklyn Initiative, so we are proud to dedicate this park in memory of her leadership and accomplishments.”

The park honors Chisholm, who was the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968. During her time in office, Chisholm fought to end the Vietnam War, as well as advocating for racial and gender equality, according to the National Women’s History Museum website. She became the first African American to run for president of the US through a major party and the one of the first women to run through a major party as well. While she was running, she was not allowed to participate in the televised primary debates, the website stated.

Chisholm’s famous line was: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.