Tag: Holly Springs

HISTORY: Movement to Honor Anti-Lynching Crusader and Journalist Ida B. Wells in Chicago is Gaining Momentum, and is ‘Long Overdue’

Michelle Duster, great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells. (Taylor Glascock for The Washington Post)

Adapted from a story by The Washington Post’s Peter Slevin. via thelily.com

Ida B. Wells, a crusading African American journalist who exposed the crime and shame of lynching and fought for women’s suffrage, spent half her life in Chicago. She died in 1931 after dedicating her life to the battle against racial injustice. Yet her pioneering work is all but unrecognized in Chicago, which has no shortage of statues and monuments to leading white men.

There is the grave marker at Oak Woods Cemetery. It reads BARNETT. Along the bottom, “Crusaders for Justice.” On the left, there is her name: Ida B. Wells, beside her husband’s.

Ida B. Wells's gravesite in Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. (Taylor Glascock for The Washington Post)
Ida B. Wells’s gravesite in Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. (Taylor Glascock for The Washington Post)

Then, there was a housing project, erected in 1941 and called Ida B. Wells Homes. It grew to 1,662 units, but it did not end well. The project succumbed to neglect and dysfunction before the last building was torn down in 2011, doing no honor to her name.

That’s it.

Michelle Duster, her great-granddaughter, aims to change that. For the past decade, Duster and a few friends have labored, dollar by dollar, to raise $300,000 to build a monument to Wells in Chicago. They’re still barely halfway there, but the word is getting out.

“You can’t just gloss over this history,” said Duster, a writer and lecturer who sees a need for Wells’s example these days. “She not only believed in certain principles and values but she sacrificed herself over and over and over again. She was called fearless. I don’t believe that she had no fear. I believe she had fear and she decided to keep going forward.”

A monument will honor the legendary activist, as well as introduce her to people who aren’t familiar with her place in American history.

People who may know nothing about Ida B. Wells will find things about this extraordinary woman they didn’t know anything about,” said Kirk Savage, an art historian at the University of Pittsburgh who studies public memorials.

In 1862, Wells was born in Holly Springs, Miss., a few months before the Emancipation Proclamation. She passed a teacher’s exam at age 16 and taught school. In 1884, after she moved to Memphis, three railroad workers forcibly removed her from a train for refusing to leave a car reserved for white women, even though she had purchased a ticket. She sued and won, only to see the verdict overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Wells began writing newspaper columns and purchased a share of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight. When three of her black friends were lynched after opening a grocery store in competition with a white-owned business, she started investigating and challenged the assertion that large numbers of black men were raping white women.

The city of Memphis, she wrote, does not protect an African American “who dares to protect himself against the white man or become his rival.” After a mob destroyed the printing presses, she moved for good to Chicago in the early 1890s. There, she married lawyer Ferdinand Barnett, had four children, worked as a probation officer and supported migrants from the South, all the while traveling widely to oppose racial terror.

Wells “challenged every type of convention,” including sexism in the civil rights community and racism in the women’s suffrage movement, New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones said. “She refused to stay in her place at a time when doing something could be debilitating, could be dangerous.”

Hannah-Jones, whose 75,000 Twitter followers see her handle as Ida Bae Wells, also worked to create the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Journalism, designed to increase and elevate investigative work by people of color.

Last month, Hannah-Jones flew to Chicago to help raise money for the Wells monument, which has been a slow-moving project.

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Agnes Fenton of Englewood, NJ Turns 110, Has “Nothing to Complain About”

God and Johnnie Walker Blue are the keys to longevity says Agnes Fenton, who turns 110 years old on Saturday. Fenton still lives in her own home in Englewood.
God and Johnnie Walker Blue are the keys to longevity says Agnes Fenton, who turned 110 years old on Saturday. Fenton still lives in her own home in Englewood. NJ. (AMY NEWMAN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

“The birthday is just another day,” Agnes Fenton whispered, pooh-poohing the milestone she reaches Saturday.  Fenton, who has a lovely face, celebrated No. 110.

And just like that, the beloved Englewood resident — who has extolled the wonders of Miller High Life and Johnnie Walker — punched her ticket into the ultra-exclusive “supercentenarian” club.

Of the 7 billion people on the planet, a microscopic number are 110 or older. Robert Young, director of the Gerontology Research Group, which keeps track of supercentenarians, estimates 600. Dr. Thomas Perls, founding director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University School of Medicine, of which Fenton is a participant, puts the number at 360.

That means roughly 1 in every 10 million people in the world is a supercentenarian.  Which makes Agnes Fenton special.  Just don’t tell her that.

When a reporter visited her in the run-up to the big birthday, Fenton answered “lousy” when asked how she felt.  But she warmed to the conversation and emphasized that God is the reason she’s lived this long.

“When I was 100 years old, I went to the mirror to thank God that I was still here. And I thank him every morning,” she said in a voice one must strain to hear. She sat in a wheelchair at the kitchen table in her green-shingled, Cape Cod-style home near Route 4.

“He gave me a long life and a good life, and I have nothing to complain about. … You’ve got to have God in your life. Without God, you’ve got nothing.”

Agnes Fenton was born Agnes Jones on Aug. 1, 1905, in Holly Springs, Miss. She spent her early years in Memphis and ran a restaurant there called Pal’s Duck Inn. Fenton, who has no children, came north to Englewood in the 1950s with her second husband, Vincent Fenton. She worked as a cafeteria manager for a magazine publisher, then as a nanny. Her husband, whom she called “Fenton,” died in 1970.

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Fearless Journalist And Early Civil Rights Activist Ida B. Wells Honored With Google Doodle for her 153rd Birthday

When Ida B. Wells was 22, she was asked by a conductor of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Company to give up her seat on the train to a white man. She refused, and the conductor attempted to forcibly drag her out of her seat.  Wells wouldn’t budge.

“The moment he caught hold of my arm I fastened my teeth in the back of his hand,” she wrote in her autobiography. “I had braced my feet against the seat in front and was holding to the back, and as he had already been badly bitten he didn’t try it again by himself. He went forward and got the baggageman and another man to help him and of course they succeeded in dragging me out.”

The year was 1884 — about 70 years before Rosa Parks would refuse to give up her seat on an Alabama bus.  Wells’ life was full of such moments of courage and principle. Born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862, Wells was a vocal civil rights activist, suffragist and journalist who dedicated her life to fighting inequality.

On July 16, Wells’ 153rd birthday, Google honored the “fearless and uncompromising” woman with a Doodle of her typing away on typewriter, a piece of luggage by her side.

“She was a fierce opponent of segregation and wrote prolifically on the civil injustices that beleaguered her world. By twenty-five she was editor of the Memphis-based Free Speech and Headlight, and continued to publicly decry inequality even after her printing press was destroyed by a mob of locals who opposed her message,” Google wrote in tribute of Wells.

The journalist would go on to work for Chicago’s Daily Inter Ocean and the Chicago Conservator, one of the oldest African-American newspapers in the country. As Google notes, she “also travelled and lectured widely, bringing her fiery and impassioned rhetoric all over the world.”

Wells married Chicago attorney Ferdinand Barrett in 1895. She insisted on keeping her own name, becoming Ida Wells-Barnett — a radical move for the time. The couple had four children.  Wells died in Chicago of kidney failure in 1931. She was 68.

Every year around her birthday, Holly Springs celebrates Wells’ life with a weekend festival. Mayor Kelvin Buck said at this year’s event that people often overlook “the historic significance of Ida B. Wells in the history of the civil rights struggle in the United States,” per the South Reporter.

article by Dominique Mosbergen via huffingtonpost.com