A tireless champion of her people, Ida B. Wells was the first of eight children born to Jim and Elizabeth Wells in Mississippi in 1862, six months before chattel slavery was ended with the Emancipation Proclamation.
Her parents, who had been slaves, were able to support their children because Elizabeth was an excellent cook and Jim a skilled carpenter. But when Ida was only 16, her parents and youngest sibling died of Yellow Fever during an epidemic. In keeping with the strength and fortitude she demonstrated throughout her remarkable life, Ida took responsibility for raising her six younger siblings with her grandmother’s help. Educated at nearby Rust College, a school run by white missionaries, Ida was forced to drop out; she got a full-time teaching job by lying about her age, and spent weekends washing, ironing and cooking for her large family.