Monday, February 27, 2017

Ida B. Well "A Black History Story"

Ida B. Wells, an educator, is chosen for this article because of the 2017 Black History Theme: The Crisis in Black Education. Since the beginning of slavery, educating slaves was adamantly opposed to by most White Southern slaveholders. It was believed that an educated slave would rebel and threaten the slaveholder’s authority. Slaves who were bred by the slaveholder were oftentimes taught in his home by his wife or siblings. Overall, slaves were uneducated but ‘burned to learn’. Some slaves were self-taught but if caught were oftentimes severely punished physically or psychologically. According to Heather Andrea Williams, author of Self-Taught, African American Education in Slavery and Freedom, a series of statues were passed to criminalize any person who taught slaves or supported their efforts to teach themselves. 

One such statue was passed in North Carolina in 1830 which read, “any free person, who shall hereafter teach, or attempt to teach, any slave within this State to read or write, the use of figures excepted, or shall give or sell to such slave or slaves any books or pamphlets, shall be liable to indictment in any court of record in this State.” The slaveholders, even after emancipation, used violence and arson to prevent attempts to educate free slaves. However, many former slaves started their own schools and learned from those who had managed to become educated prior to emancipation.

Ida B. Wells is lesser known than Sojourner Truth and Harriett Tubman but just as determined to bring about justice in the United States for former slaves. They were in different era but all effective in their quest for justice. Wells was actually born a slave but her parents received their freedom shortly after her birth. She was born and educated in Holly Springs, MS. After receiving her education at Rust University, which was a freedom school, she became a teacher. She taught at a country school near Holly Springs. After leaving Mississippi, she moved to Memphis, TN and later moved on to attend Fisk University. Ida B. Wells became known as an opponent of lynching in the late 1800s by leading an anti-lynching campaign. 

Her campaigning started after three of her friends were lynched. She used her education to write editorials about lynching but her office was eventually ram shacked and she moved to Chicago, IL. However, this did not stop her campaign, she began to travel and speak about lynching even as far as Great Britain. Wells with others started various organizations to help striving Blacks become educated. Through the years, many Blacks built their own schools, selected their own curriculum and teachers. It is believed that Blacks ultimately set the standard for schools in the south, according to author Heather Andrea Williams.

Today, the crisis in black education continues with some believing that charter schools will possibly siphon needed funds from the public schools which the majority of blacks attend. The Parents’ Campaign for Better Schools – Brighter Future has a campaign presently to stop the passing of a voucher bill HB 1703 in Mississippi which the House Ways and Means committee is considering. HB 1703 uses tax credits to subsidize tuition at private schools. According to Parents’ Campaign for Better Schools – Brighter Future, this bill is a clever way privatizers are trying to disguise vouchers. Based on ‘herstory’, education pioneer Ida B. Wells would join this organization to help with an issue such as this.