Ida B. Wells Resources


Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice documents the dramatic life and turbulent times of the pioneering African American journalist, activist, suffragist and anti-lynching crusader of the post-Reconstruction period. A fuller description of the film is attached.


Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth be Told, Walter Dean Meyers, ages 8/9, Harper, $16.99

An activist, educator, writer, journalist, suffragette, and pioneering voice against the horror of lynching, she used fierce determination and the power of the pen to educate the world about the unequal treatment of blacks in the United States. Award-winning author Walter Dean Myers tells the story of this legendary figure, which blends harmoniously with the historically detailed watercolor paintings of illustrator Bonnie Christensen.

Ida B. Wells: Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Dennis Fradin, ages 12/14, Clarion, 19.00

The acclaimed civil rights leader Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) is brought vividly to life in this accessible and well-researched biography. Her story is one of courage and determination in the face of intolerance and injustice.

Crusade for Justice: Autobiography of Ida B. Wells, edited by her daughter Alfreda M. Duster, Chicago, $27.50

This engaging memoir tells of her private life as mother of a growing family as well as her public activities as teacher, lecturer, and journalist in her fight against attitudes and laws oppressing blacks.

Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching by Crystal N. Feimster, Harvard, $19.95

Pairing the lives of two Southern women Ida B. Wells, who fearlessly branded lynching a white tool of political terror against southern blacks, and Rebecca Latimer Felton, who urged white men to prove their manhood by lynching black men accused of raping white women. Southern Horrors provides a startling view into the Jim Crow South where the precarious and subordinate position of women linked black and white anti-rape activists together in fragile political alliances.


On Lynching, Ida B. Wells, introduction Patricia Hill Collins, Prometheus Books, 19.98

Reprints three famous pamphlets which document and denounce the lynching of African American men and women. – Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) began speaking out against lynching as the editor of a small newspaper for Blacks in Memphis, Tennessee, and continued her campaign in New York and Chicago. Here are three of her pamphlets: Southern Horrors (1892), A Red Record (1895), and Mob Rule in New Orleans (1900). They are introduced by Patricia Hill Collins (sociology and African American studies, U. of Cincinnati).

To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells by Mia Bay, Hill & Wang, $18.00

A profile of the civil rights pioneer traces her early life in Mississippi and Tennessee, her campaign for justice after being forced to give up her train seat in 1883, and her journalism work to fight lynching and racial injustice. Born to slaves in 1862, Ida B. Wells became a fearless anti-lynching crusader, women’s rights advocate, and journalist. Wells’ refusal to accept any compromise on racial inequality caused her to be labeled a “dangerous radical” in her day but made her a model for later civil rights activists as well as a powerful witness to the troubled racial politics of her era. In the richly illustrated To Tell the Truth Freely, the historian Mia Bay vividly captures Wells’s legacy and life, from her childhood in Mississippi to her early career in late-nineteenth-century Memphis and her later life in Progressive-era Chicago.

Ida, A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching, Paula Giddings, Harper, $19.99

Heralded as a landmark achievement upon publication, Ida: A Sword Among Lions is a sweeping narrative about a country and a crusader embroiled in the struggle against lynching – a practice that imperiled not only the lives of black men and women, but also a nation based on law and riven by race. At the center of the national drama is Ida B. Wells (1862-1931). Born to slaves in Mississippi, Wells began her activist career by refusing to leave a first-class ladies’ car on a Memphis railway and rose to lead the nation’s first campaign against lynching. For Wells, the key to the rise in violence was embedded in attitudes not only about black men, but also about women and sexuality. Her independent perspective and percussive personality gained her encomiums as a hero, as well as aspersions on her character and threats of death. Exiled from the South by 1892, Wells subsequently took her campaign across the country and throughout the British Isles before she married and settled in Chicago. There she continued her activism as a journalist, suffragist, and independent candidate in the rough-and-tumble world of the Windy City’s politics. With meticulous research and vivid rendering of her subject, Giddings also provides compelling portraits of twentieth-century progressive luminaries, blacks and whites who worked with Wells during some of the most tumultuous periods in American history. In this groundbreaking work, Paula J. Giddings brings to life the irrepressible personality of Ida B. Wells and gives the visionary reformer her due.


53 minutes, 1989
Producer/Director: William Greaves


Though virtually forgotten today, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a household name in Black America during much of her lifetime (1863-1931) and was considered the equal of her well-known African American contemporaries such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois.

Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice documents the dramatic life and turbulent times of the pioneering African American journalist, activist, suffragist and anti-lynching crusader of the post-Reconstruction period. Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison reads selections from Wells’ memoirs and other writings in this winner of more than 20 film festival awards.

“One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap.” – Ida B. Wells

Discussion Questions

Well’s Original Letters


A director, producer, actor and writer, William Greaves’ films have won over seventy international film festival awards including an Emmy. He served as executive producer and co-host of the pioneering 1960s network television series Black Journal. His complete filmography reveals that he has been one of the most prolific and eloquent African American voices in the media over the past three decades. For more information visit

“Tells of the brave life and works of the 19th century journalist, known among Black reporters as ‘the princess of the press,’ who led the nation’s first anti-lynching campaign.”
New York Times
“A powerful account of the life of one of the earliest heroes in the Civil Rights Movement…The historical record of her achievements remains relatively modest. This documentary goes a long way towards rectifying that egregious oversight.”
Chicago Sun-Times
“A keenly realized profile of Ida B. Wells, an African American who used her potent skills as writer and orator to fight racism and sexism.”
Los Angeles Times
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