Ida B. Wells, born a slave in 1862, lived a remarkable life until her death on March 25, 1931, fighting for equal rights for African-Americans and women.
Six months after her birth, the Emancipation Proclamation freed the nation’s slaves. Life in Mississippi was challenging because of ongoing racially discriminatory practices, but Wells’ family was one that stressed education. It was such a high priority, that when her parents and a sibling died from yellow fever, she was able to convince a school administrator that she was 18 and qualified to teach. The bold move enabled Wells to care for her remaining siblings.
Her activism began when she was forced off of a train traveling from Memphis to Nashville after refusing to move to a Blacks-only car. Wells, who had purchased a first-class ticket, sued the railroad. She won a $500 settlement but the state’s Supreme Court later overturned the decision. Outraged, she began writing about politics and southern racial discrimination, while continuing to teach, and ultimately became a journalist and newspaper publisher. Issues she tackled included the state of segregated public schools, lynching, employment discrimination and other inequities. Her work put her in danger, however, it lead her to move to New York City, where she continued her activism.
Wells founded the National Association of Colored Women in 1896, was a founding member of the NAACP, ran for a seat in the Illinois state senate and worked with the National Equal Rights League.
She died of kidney disease in 1931, in Chicago.”
*Folks who have Googled something today may have noticed the drawing of an African woman in the place of its usual logo.
It’s Miriam Makeba, the late singer and civil rights campaigner, honored in a special doodle on what would have been her 81st birthday.
Makeba, who was born in Johannesburg in 1932, worked with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone, Harry Belafonte and Paul Simon in a musical career that spanned decades. She is considered to be the first singer to popularize African music internationally, initially performing jazz before moving into a style that is commonly known by the catch-all title “world music.”
The politics of Makeba’s music led to her exile from South Africa in 1959 shortly after she appeared in an anti-apartheid documentary that made her an international star. She was denied access to her homeland for 31 years, only returning in 1990 at the insistence of future president Nelson Mandela who had only recently been released from prison. During her exile she became a prominent critic of South Africa, even testifying against apartheid before the United Nations, which led to her becoming an honorary citizen of 10 countries.
Makeba died in Italy in 2008 during a performance for the author, journalist and anti-mafia campaigner Roberto Saviano.