Rutgers prof to give Wells-Barnett lecture

URBANA — A Rutgers University history professor will deliver the annual Ida B. Wells-Barnett Lecture at 6 p.m. Monday in the Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., U.

The lecture, sponsored by the University of Illinois Department of African American Studies, is free and open to the public.

Wells-Barnett was the Mississippi-born woman who led a crusade against lynching in the 1890s; she will be the main focus of the lecture, to be delivered by Professor Mia Bay, the author of "To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells" (2009).

Bay directs the Rutgers Center for Race and Ethnicity. She also is the author of "The White Image in the Black Mind: African-American Ideas About White People 1830-1925" (2000).

Ronald Bailey, head of the UI African American studies department, said in a news release that Wells-Barnett is one of the most important figures in U.S. and African-American history.

She was born to slave parents in 1862 and later moved to Memphis, where she became one of the first black woman newspaper publishers. She used that platform to fight against lynching; she was forced to leave Memphis when her life was threatened and her newspaper office destroyed in 1892.

Bailey said Wells-Barnett challenged the more conservative views of Tuskegee Institute's Booker T. Washington, launched several organizations for black women, was a co-founder of the NAACP with W.E.B. Du Bois, and helped organize campaigns for the right of all women to vote.

And she lived and worked in Chicago for more than 40 years, between 1895 and 1936; married and raised a family; organized the Negro Fellowship League; and ran for political office.

"She is a great role model for all of us," Bailey said, "for the many Illinois students from Chicago and for a university with a land-grant mission dedicated to precisely the kind of concerns that guided her life's work."

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