- Students will consider the strategies Ida B. Wells deployed to raise awareness of social problems.
- Students will weigh the effectiveness of nonconformity to address a specific audience.
- Students will use Wells' story to write about a personal experience of conformity or non-conformity.
- Students will understand some of the economic and social problems facing the South after the Civil War.
Many people consider the 1950s the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, creating a void between the abolition of slavery and Brown v. Board of Education. After the Emancipation Proclamation, however, abolitionists continued their activities to pass the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. During Reconstruction and well into the 20th century, black and white activists worked together to gain equality for blacks and women.
The HBO film Iron Jawed Angels features two short scenes introducing a black feminist to the picture. This woman, who demanded the right to march with white suffragists and refused to go to the back of the parade to march separately, was Ida B. Wells.
Coincidentally, Ida B. Wells spent much of her life in the South and struggled with segregation on public transportation, which makes a brief glance at her life and work an interesting precursor to thinking about Rosa Parks' experience with Alabama public transportation almost 100 years later.
You can read more about Wells from her diary, from which her daughter's reflections are excerpted below. Read The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells (Ed. Miriam De Costa-Willis, Beacon Press, 1995).
- Explain to students that they are going to read some information about Ida B. Wells, a non-conformist.
- Distribute the handout, asking for a volunteer to read the brief biographical description of Wells.
- Ask students what they know about the italicized vocabulary: Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, "separate but equal," anti-lynching campaign, woman suffrage and non-conformist. Clarify terms if necessary; see glossary.
- Ask students to complete the independent writing assignment about non-conformist behavior.
This activity meets curriculum standards in Language Arts and U.S. History as outlined by Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education, 4th Edition.