Segments in this Video

Introduction to Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice (01:27)


Within 20 years after the end of the Civil War, promises were broken. Ida B. Wells, a child of slavery, became a foremost advocate for equality.

Ida B. Wells' Early Life (02:36)

Wells was born before the end of the Civil War. Her parents remarried after the war, as free people. Wells and he mother attended school taught by white Northern women.

End of Childhood (02:35)

Ida B. Wells' father was a race activist. After the war, the economy was in chaos. Wells' parents died in a yellow fever epidemic. At 16, she became the breadwinner for her siblings.

Job in Memphis (01:43)

At 18, Wells moved to Memphis to take a better-paying job. She joined a black literary society and was elected editor of the Evening Star.

Black Middle Class (01:54)

The Ku Klux Klan formed, and hostility reigned. A black middle class emerged and some blacks became legislators. In 1877, the last federal troops left the south; states began enacting laws to oppress blacks.

Segregation (02:35)

The oppressive climate radicalized Wells. She refused to give up her seat on a segregate train and sued the railroad after it ejected her. She won $500, but the judgment was overturned.

Princess of the Press (03:25)

Wells wrote articles about her case for black newspapers. She became editor and co-owner of the Free Speech. Police tolerated and participated in violence against black Americans. (Graphic images)

Racism and Power (01:40)

Three black men opened a grocery that competed with a white man's store. Police raided the store and the men fired on them. 20 people were arrested and the grocers were lynched. (Graphic images)

Lynch Response (02:24)

Memphis' black community was stunned. One of the men was a dear friend of Wells; she decided to fight back.

Go West (02:23)

Ida B. Wells exhorted blacks to go west to escape the oppressive social and economic structures of Memphis. Thousands left and white businesses suffered.

Boycott (02:01)

Still in Memphis, Wells organized a boycott of the streetcar system, mobilized other actions, and campaigned against lynching. (Graphic images)

Charges of Sexual Assault (03:11)

Wells investigated sexual assault charges against black men who were lynched. Many accusations were due to interracial relationships. White papers were outraged. (Graphic images)

Ida B. Wells in Exile (02:10)

While Wells was on a trip east, white citizens destroyed the Free Press. In exile, Wells was hired by the leading black newspaper of the day. She connected with the power of black club women. (Graphic language)

National Anti-Lynching Campaign (02:18)

Black club women raised money to pay for Wells to publish a pamphlet on lynching. Frederick Douglass thanked Wells for writing the pamphlet. (Graphic images)

Conscience of the World (02:42)

After encountering apathy in white Northerners, Wells mobilized world sentiment. Lynching became part of the public debate. The Memphis elite found lynching was bad for business. (Graphic images)

World's Fair (02:26)

Wells published pamphlets about why blacks were not at the World's Fair and distributed them to international visitors. She faced resistance from black community leaders for her militancy and her gender.

Suffragist Movement (01:46)

Ida B. Wells joined the suffrage movement. She called Susan B. Anthony out not challenging white Southern suffragist's racism.

Wells' Marriage (02:20)

Ida B. Wells married Ferdinand L. Barnett. He sold his newspaper business to his wife. Other activists criticized her for disrupting her advocacy with a family.

Opposition (01:52)

In the early 1900s, the Radicals fought all discrimination. Accommodationists (like Booker T. Washington) said segregation would protect blacks. Wells was undercut by other activists due to her boldness.

Black Martyrs (02:56)

Wells initially supported black participation in WWI. 50 black soldiers who fought in a racial uprising were executed or jailed. The Secret Service threatened Wells with treason.

Arkansas Race Riot (02:41)

Wells returned to the South to help black farmers who were sentenced to hang for trying to unionize. She went incognito and asked them to tell her all they could remember.

Open These Prison Doors (02:56)

Wells wrote a pamphlet about the Arkansas Race Riot; the condemned men were released. Wells dedicated her autobiography to the men who led black progress during Reconstruction.

Credits: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice (02:13)

Credits: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice

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Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice

3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Though virtually forgotten today, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a household name in black America during much of her lifetime (1863-1931). This film is a stirring biography of a crusading journalist, anti-lynching campaigner, and black suffragette during the most repressive years of the Jim Crow period. It documents the dramatic life and turbulent times of the pioneering African-American woman during 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.

Length: 55 minutes

Item#: BVL57863

Copyright date: ©1989

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

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Not available to Home Video and Dealer customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.