Winning Essay by Jordyn B. from Indiana attending Butler University

"The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them." This quote comes from Ida B. Wells who possessed an impeccable spirit. Wells is one of the most important African American figures in the history of American journalism. Her strong belief in the truth inspired me to become a journalist. I’ve always loved to write, and I aspire to write stories that will benefit society, as well as tell the truth about those issues that impact the lives of everyday people. Ida's dedication to the truth superseded her fears and allowed her to open the wounds of a nation who was dealing with racism.

Ida B. Wells was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862, as a slave. However, her family was freed after her birth, and like many black families, they remained in the South. Ida was brought up with an appreciation for education. An incident that would impact the direction of her life’s mission happened in May of 1884. While traveling to Nashville, Ida purchased a first class ticket on a train, but because of her race, they ordered her to move to the black section of the car. Wells refused, sued the railroad and won. This moment sparked her commitment to exposing inequalities that African Americans faced in the South. As a result, Ida purchased a share in the newspaper the Free Speech and Headlight, where she wrote articles that detailed the harsh treatment of African Americans. However, in 1892 when three of her friends were lynched by a mob, this inspired Ida to take up the issue of lynching in the South.

Her campaign angered many Southerners, this anger erupted into violence, as a result, her newspaper’s office was destroyed. Although this would have set many people back, Ida became more determined. After this, she wrote her famous piece on lynching in the South, titled Southern Horrors: Lynch Law and all its Phases. This piece exposed false allegations against black men and how the white media viciously stereotyped black people. Her style of investigative journalism inspired me to look for the truth in every story; as a journalist, I believe that the ultimate method of change is the truth, without truth, people will never know who to believe. That’s why in college I want to study journalism, to give readers a factual outlook on issues that affect them, and I believe Ida B. Wells perfected that idea. The footprints that she has left behind are those I will use to follow as I become a journalist.

As I reflect on the history of African Americans, Ida B. Wells might not be someone whose name is found in every textbook, but she was an integral part of American journalism. She was a trailblazer in a time where speaking the truth about issues relating to race was taboo. I am inspired because she challenged the status quo. Her bravery has influenced me to write stories that bring change but give light to the truth.


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