The new Barbie doll of journalist and activist Ida B. Wells.
I had a Skipper and a Scooter. I wish I could have had an Ida B. -dayle
Journalist Ida B. Wells is commemorated with a Barbie doll for fearless activism
by Elizabeth Blair
Educator, journalist, anti-lynching activist and NAACP co-founder Ida B. Wells joins the pantheon of distinguished women honored by Mattel with her own signature Barbie doll. Resplendent in a deep blue, floor-length dress with lace details, the new Ida B. Wells doll also comes with a historically significant accessory: a miniature replica of the Memphis Free Speech, the newspaper where Wells became editor and co-owner in 1889.
Mattel has created numerous Barbie dolls to honor both historic and contemporary heroines in the hopes of inspiring “generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before.” It’s Inspiring Women Series includes dolls dedicated to Maya Angelou, NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson and singer Ella Fitzgerald.
The oldest of eight children, Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Miss., in 1862. When she was 16, both of her parents and a younger brother died during the yellow fever epidemic. Wells raised her younger siblings and became a teacher to support her family.
Daniel and Michelle Duster attend the dedication of a monument to their great-grandmother, journalist, educator, and civil rights leader, Ida B. Wells in Chicago last year.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
“I am honored that Barbie has chosen to celebrate my great-grandmother, Ida B. Wells, as part of its Inspiring Women Series,” says Michelle Duster, author, public historian, and great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells in a statement. “My great-grandmother was a trailblazer, who courageously followed her convictions and challenged the status quo by fighting for civil rights and women’s suffrage. This is an incredible opportunity to shine a light on her truth and enduring legacy to empower a new generation to speak up for what they believe in.”
A pivotal moment in Wells’ life came in 1883 when she was traveling by train from Memphis to Woodstock, Tenn., where she was a teacher. When she refused to give up her seat and ride in a segregated car, she was forcibly removed. Wells later sued the Chesapeake, Ohio and Southwest Railroad Co. A local court ruled in her favor but the decision was eventually overturned in federal court.
Wells became a fierce anti-lynching activist. She investigated white mob violence and wrote scathing indictments of the lynchings of Black men. Her articles so angered locals, the offices of the Memphis Free Speech were destroyed.
In the preface to her 1892 pamphlet Southern Horrors: Lynch Laws In All Its Phases, Wells wrote, “It is with no pleasure I have dipped my hands in the corruption here exposed. Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen on me to do so.”
Why Minneapolis Was the Breaking Point
Black men and women are still dying across the country. The power that is American policing has conceded nothing.
Seventeen-year-old Darnella Frazier was on her way out the door to a Memorial Day bonfire on the other side of town when her 9-year-old cousin made a request: Would Frazier walk her to a nearby store? Of course, Frazier replied.
She and her cousin were on their way back home, at the corner of 38th and Chicago, just south of downtown, when Frazier spotted a distraught man sprawled on the pavement. A pile of police officers was holding him down. At least one of the cops seemed to be on top of the man’s neck.
Frazier pulled out her cellphone and hit Record.
Within hours, the whole world had seen the video: Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin driving his knee into the neck of 46-year-old George Floyd, not only until Floyd died but for minutes after his life had been extinguished. What came next was a national crisis.
When I first sat down to begin writing this story, parts of many American cities were on fire and police officers in dozens of places were committing indiscriminate acts of violence—unleashing tear gas, rubber bullets, and worse—against the citizenry they had sworn an oath to serve and protect. Elected officials were pleading for peace as parts of their cities burned and the nation, watching in real time on television, asked “Why?”
Decades earlier, there’d been the determined journalism of Ida B. Wells, whose Memphis newspaper was burned to the ground by white supremacists. Wells is best remembered for her crusading work in the 1890s, which not only documented the frequency of southern lynchings but also provided what we’d now consider data analysis in order to disprove the racist lie that lynchings were happening because black men had a particular lust for and inclination to rape white women. Less well known is that Wells also dispatched herself to the scene of cases of police violence, providing essential scrutiny of an equally American strand of homicidal impunity.
“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want the WESLEY LOWERY is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and the author of They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement. He is currently a correspondent for 60 in 6, a spin-off of 60 Minutes on the mobile app Quibi.” the former slave Frederick Douglass proclaimed in 1857. “They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”
“This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle,” Douglass continued, before arriving at a more widely quoted sentence: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”
Racism is not to blame, the thinking popular among at least some conservatives goes. It’s the people fighting racism who are the problem. If everyone could just stop talking about all of this stuff, we could go “back” to being a peaceful, united country. No one seems to be able to answer when, precisely, in our history that previous moment of peace, justice, and racial harmony occurred.
WESLEY LOWERY is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and the author of They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement. He is currently a correspondent for 60 in 6, a spin-off of 60 Minutes on the mobile app Quibi.
Hunger Coalition in Blaine County, Idaho:
‘Speaking out against systemic racism with people across the nation and across the political spectrum aligns with our values, but we must also act on our words. To that end, The Hunger Coalition supports peaceful nonviolent protest and advocacy as a way to:
- Stand up for fundamental American principles of fairness and justice.
- Affect change at the system level.
- Raise awareness around issues that affect the people we serve.
- Honor our values of equity and inclusiveness.
- Speak out against discrimination suffered by people of color, including police brutality.
- Ensure The Hunger Coalition is seen as a safe place for all people to access food, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, citizenship, disability, or religion.
Please consider joining us in the following actions:
Educate: read, read, and read more about how racial injustice is rampant in every corner of our country. Share what you learn with others.
Demonstrate: peaceful protest is fundamental to our democracy and how we can shine a light on discrimination.
Donate: make a donation to organizations working to heal our nation and bring us all together.
Organize: join forces with people on a shared mission. Petition, canvass, campaign, and put pressure on our leadership to enact change.
Vote: vote for candidates at the local, state, and national level who support policies that make life better for people of color. There is an election on November 3, 2020. Research the candidates and vote.’
-Jeanne Liston, Executive Director at the Hunger Coalition
[Image: Deborah Knapp]
Krista Tippet, On Being:
‘…horrific trauma inflicted on black bodies in the “new world” of America — which, as Langston Hughes wrote, “never was America to me.” We are all literally carrying – breathing, reliving, and so repeating — much that didn’t happen to us personally. It’s one way to finally grasp why talking about race, and “teaching our brains to think better” about race, has fallen brutally, tragically short: “The vital force behind white supremacy,” Resmaa Menakem writes in his extraordinary book My Grandmother’s Hands, “is in our nervous systems.”
Resmaa Menakem is a teacher and visionary in this city (Minneapolis), though I only became aware of his groundbreaking work a few months ago. Just before the pandemic sent us into lockdown, I sat across from him in our studio on Loring Park. He watched me as closely as he listened to my words. He caught me bracing at the term “white supremacy,” and taught me that noticing such bracing is exactly where I have to begin to live differently. He’s drawing on knowledge we’re just now gaining about systems and processes in our bodies that we’re only now learning to see: vagus nerve, psoas muscle, trauma, epigenetics. He makes a stunning connection between generations of trauma that white bodies inflicted on each other in the centuries we call the Dark Ages and the generations of horrific trauma inflicted on black bodies in the “new world” of America.
At the On Being Project right now we are listening, and listening again, to Resmaa as well as others who’ve been teaching us in recent years and to whom we will turn for new wisdom in this time. We’re trying to carry our questions with as much humility as we carry what feel like insights and answers.’
“An individual committed to social justice, inspired & frustrated & impassioned by everything. Everything is political. To think otherwise is a luxury. If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for everything.”
-Anwar Omeish (From the book A Nation of Nations/A Great American Immigration Story (2015), by Tom Gjelten
“To me, Jesus talked about reaching out to the poor, reaching out to the marginalized, reaching out to the oppressed,” says Tara Agnew Harris, 41, who worships at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.
“Sometimes, I feel that traditional Christian beliefs have been hijacked,” she says. “I think many people in the United States, when they hear about ‘Christian beliefs,’ they think it has something to do with a certain fundamentalist mindset.”
“The way that I personally interpret my Christian faith and my own Christian walk,” she says, “is that it’s an active challenge. [It’s about] how I can make a difference in the lives of others.”
“We’re working with Muslims and Jews and Sikhs and every sort of faith group,” Butler says. “We all have the same core values in mind, which is that everybody is created in the image of God, and we need to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.”
It was religious leaders who drove the abolitionist movement in the 19th century and the civil rights movement in the 20th century.
“I think religion helps people understand who they should be,” Butler says.’
“The nation is in need of “moral defibrillators” to work on its weak heart.”
-Rev. Dr. William Barber
Mother Lea at Emmanuel Episcopal in Hailey, Idaho reminds us that 1% of a 24 hour day is 14.4 minutes. If we use that time every day to be a ‘lamp, lifeboat, or ladder [Rumi] we will create change.
Derrick Jensen/Orion Magazine
“…life is really, really good. I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time that life is really, really good. I am full of rage, sorrow, joy, love, hate, despair, happiness, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and a thousand other feelings. We are really fucked. Life is still really good.”
Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.
False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.
Things will not be okay. They are already not okay, and they’re getting worse. Rapidly.
To hope for some result means you have given up any agency concerning it. […] They’ve stepped away from their own ability to participate in stopping it.
We simply do the work.
I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time that life is really, really good. I am full of rage, sorrow, joy, love, hate, despair, happiness, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and a thousand other feelings. We are really fucked. Life is still really good.
When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear.
And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.
In case you’re wondering, that’s a very good thing.
This is the political revolution – – 27,000 people rally for BERNIE in New York City.
- Get out the VOTE.
- Protect voting rights.
- Rid politics of big money.
Whatever happens at the conventions, or in November, one guy changed the debate and activated hundreds of thousands young voters to mobilize, protect voting rights, and get big money out of politics.