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African American Suffragists: A Fearless Pursuit of Justice Just to Vote

Each day for Juneteenth week NAACP will offer tributes to African American women who were written out of history. This year marks 100 years after women won the vote in August 1920. Now learn about valiant women who would not back down!

Sometimes they worked in their own clubs and suffrage organizations, sometimes with white suffragists. Black women did not accept their exclusion from white suffrage organizations or the racist tactics employed by white suffragists. In the twentieth century, more and more Black women joined the ranks of suffragists as the movement progressed.

IDA B. WELLS-BARNETT (1862 – 1931):

The Pulitzer 2020 Prizewinner Special Citation was posthumously was awarded to Ida B. Wells. It took far too long to recognize her courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching. This symbolic gesture cements her place in history as a great American journalist. Wells’ fearless pursuit of justice during an era of mass lynching set her apart from other journalists at the time. Wells’ timeless pieces were written as blacks were under siege by rebel racists who killed rather than relinquish their positions of privilege. Even as she risked being lynched, she refused to back down from saying exactly what needed to be said.

WHO WAS SHE? Wells-Barnett was a journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, and Civil Rights leader. In Memphis, Tennessee, she led an anti-lynching crusade after three of her friends were lynched. In response, a white mob destroyed her Memphis Free Speech printing press. Threats to her life forced her to move to Chicago to write for the Chicago Conservator newspaper, edited by Ferdinand Barnett, whom she married in 1895. In that year, she published The Red Record, detailing the atrocities of lynching. She co-founded the National Association of Colored Women and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1896 and 1909 respectively.

A supporter of woman suffrage, she founded the Alpha Suffrage Club for African-American women, the first suffrage club for Black women in Illinois. She marched in the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, D.C., but refused to march at the back of the parade as other Black women did.


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