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Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and went on to become one of the highest-profile voices for civil rights in the nineteenth century. On Tuesday, February 27, biographer Paula J. Giddings will present “Ida B. Wells and the Campaign against Lynching” at the Old Capitol Museum.

Wells attended Rust College and became a teacher. In 1887, she won a lawsuit against the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad after being forcibly removed from a first-class car for which she had purchased a ticket. Wells purchased a stake in a small newspaper and began a public campaign against inequitable school funding, lynching, and segregation, and supporting economic boycotts and women’s rights. She eventually moved to New York City and then Chicago, where she continued to write exposes of lynchings in the South. In 1909, Wells helped form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and in 1930 she became one of the first African American women in the nation to run for public office with an unsuccessful attempt at a seat in the Illinois legislature. She died in 1931. In 2016 she was elected to the state's Hall of Fame.

David Levering Lewis, the Pulitzer Prize-Winning biographer of W.E.B. DuBois, wrote that “Ida B. Wells was an inspired journalist, an uncompromising civil libertarian, and a woman far ahead of her patriarchal times--a ‘difficult’ woman. Paula Giddings’s monumental achievement restores this extraordinary contrarian to her place as one of the grand pace-setters of American social justice and female empowerment.”

Paula J. Giddings is the author of Ida: A Sword among Lions, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography and the inaugural John Hope Franklin Research Center Book Award presented by the Duke University Libraries. Giddings is Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor Emerita of Africana Studies at Smith College, where she edited Meridians, a journal for scholarship and creative work by and about women of color in U.S. and international contexts.

Giddings is a former book editor and journalist who has written extensively on international and national issues and has been published by the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jeune Afrique (Paris), The Nation, and Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, among other publications.

A reception and book signing will begin at 5 p.m. in the Old Capitol rotunda, and the program will be in the historic House of Representatives Chamber at 6 p.m. This program is free and open to the public. For more information call 601-576-6920 or email

This program is supported by the Mississippi Humanities Council through the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” Initiative."

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