My6inchchallenge's Blog

Tackling difficulties and overcoming the challenges life serves up – by Dona Halliday

Archive for Slavery

Loving Freedom – Women I admire

In this series I highlight women I admire. Women who did not give in the challenges of injustice and slavery, but whose love extended beyond themselves and compelled them to actively join the fight for justice. I honor Ida B. Wells, and hope that her courage, passion, vision and spirit live on in women like me.

IDA B WELLS
1862-1931

“One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap.”

Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi, just months prior to emancipation in 1862. Her parents died of yellow fever when she was 14, and Wells, though minimally educated, began teaching to support her seven younger sisters and brothers. She somehow managed to keep her family together, graduate from Rust College and secure a teaching position in Memphis in 1888.

When she was 22, Wells defied a conductor’s order in Tennessee to move to a segregated railroad car and was forcibly removed. She won a lawsuit (later overturned) against the railroad and, from that point on, worked consistently to overcome injustices to people of color and to women. In 1889 she became co-owner of a Memphis newspaper, the Free Speech and Headlight. Her editorials protesting the lynching of three black friends led to a boycott of white businesses, the destruction of her newspaper office and threats against her life. Undeterred, she carried her anti-lynching crusade to Chicago and published Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, which documented racial lynching in America.

In 1895 she married Ferdinand L. Barnett, attorney and owner of the Conservator, Chicago’s first black newspaper, and hyphenated her name to Wells-Barnett. Though married and eventually the mother of four, Wells-Barnett continued to write and organize. She was a founder of the National Association of Colored People (NAACP), marched in the parade for universal suffrage in Washington, D.C. (1913) and established the Negro Fellowship League for black men and the first kindergarten for black children in Chicago.

Though her crusade for Congress to pass anti-lynching laws did not succeed during her lifetime, her efforts as a writer and activist dedicated to social change and justice bore fruit in many areas and established her as one of the most forceful and remarkable women of her time. Ida B. Wells died in Chicago.

Love-speak to my ancestors. Enduring the Challenges of Slavery

Living through the Auction-block experience

I feel like whispering. I’m so awed by you. I’ve lived your stories through the writings and reenactment of others,  yet it’s so hard for me to grasp your life–what you endured, how you lived, how you survived. I don’t know what it feels like not to matter, not to have my person-hood acknowledged, not to have others realize that I have dreams and hopes, thoughts and ideas–that I have a place in the world.
But you remained strong. You overcame. You understood that though your bodies were  enslaved your minds were not. So you dreamed your dreams and looked for the hope of freedom in your life or the life to come.

I feel like weeping. I can’t imagine being counted with live-stock. Being whipped instead of encouraged, being branded instead of having my own identity. When you stood on the auction block, completely exposed and vulnerable–stripped not only of your dignity, but of the God-given gift of choice–What were you thinking? How did you endure the humiliation?
When your children were taken and sold, you sons disfigured, your husbands lynched, your daughters raped–How did you keep going, singing, hoping?

I feel like dancing. I’m here because of you. I’m strong because you were strong. I’m persistent, a dreamer, I’m proud, dignified, beautiful, intelligent. A thinker, an innovator…
And there are so many others you would be proud of: mothers, fathers, laborers, teachers, preachers, doctors, judges, authors, poets, inventors, businessmen and women, designers,  athletes and entertainers, officers of law and even presidents. We’re so proud we are a part of you.

%d bloggers like this: