On the heels of the conviction of Michael Dunn for three counts of attempted second-degree murder, and a mistrial in the first-degree murder charge for the death of Jordan Davis, the February installment of the Liberation Film Series features the documentary, Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice, focused on Ms. Wells’ mission which remains relevant today given the tragic results of contemporary “stand your ground” laws, racial profiling, stop-and-frisk police tactics, the escalating incarceration of black males, and the culture of violence with which American communities continue to struggle. The film will be followed by a discussion led by Dr. Melba Joyce Boyd, Distinguished Professor and Chair of Africana Studies, Wayne State University, entitled, “Our Strongest Voice Against the Ubiquitous Lynching of Black America.” This free event takes place Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 2 pm at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Detroit.
Passion for Justice provides an overview of the life of Ida Bell Wells Barnett (1862 - 1931). Born into slavery on July 16, 1862, in Holly Springs, Mississippi, she became one of the leading African American journalists and activists of her time. She came into the national spotlight in 1884, when she refused to give up her seat on a train and had to be ejected by two men. She sued the railroad company for discrimination and won, but this decision was subsequently overturned by a higher court.
Wells’ stand against discrimination and racial violence became the mantra for her activist journalism, especially on the subject of lynching. She was the co-owner of the Memphis Free Press, and in 1892 when three of her friends, Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Henry Stewart, were lynched because their small grocery store had taken away customers from a competing white business, Wells reported the crime in her paper. Consequently, her printing equipment was destroyed by a mob and her life publically threatened in an article that appeared in the Memphis daily newspaper. Forced into exile, she began writing for Thomas T. Fortune’s newspaper, The New York Age, under the pseudonym “Iola.”
After she married Attorney Ferdinand Barnett and permanently moved to Chicago, she became the editor of The Conservator, a newspaper Barnett had previously owned and operated. Throughout her life Ida B. Wells advocated for equal rights for blacks and for women. She was a part of the leadership of major activist organizations, alongside persons such as Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Frances E.W. Harper, and W.E.B. Du Bois. She even sought elected office later in life. Her name is the one most often associated with the fight against lynching and other terrorist activities that threatened and undermined the African American community during the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century.
Directed by William Greaves, Passion for Justice has appeared on public television stations and in classrooms throughout the nation and internationally. It provides an excellent introduction and overview of Wells’ dynamic life and the critical roles she played to advance democratic and economic rights from African Americans and women.
About the Liberation Film Series
The Liberation Film Series is supported by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Black/African Studies Departments of Michigan State University, University of Michigan - Dearborn, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, Wayne State University, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne County Community College District, Oakland University, and University of Massachusetts – Amherst, National Council of Black Studies, Dr. Errol Henderson (Pennsylvania State University), Media Education Foundation, The Walter P. Reuther Library – Wayne State University, Fashion International, Black & White Look Optical Corporation, Wayne State University Press, Bentley Historical Library - University of Michigan, University Prep Science & Math High School, Nandi’s Book Store, community activists, and individual contributors.
The 2013 - 2014 season of the Liberation Film Series runs through June 2014, and is free and open to the public. For more information, including the complete series schedule and respective speaker profiles, discussion topics, trailers, reading lists, supplemental educational links, and insightful statements of endorsement, please visit www.thewright.org/liberation.