This article examines the development of Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s radical activism by focusing on her formative years in Holly Springs, Mississippi. It elaborates the Black political culture, places, people, and moments in Reconstruction-era Mississippi that contributed to her cognizance of racial, political, economic, and women’s issues. To understand Wells-Barnett as a national figure is to understand the socio-political contexts of her birthplace of Holly Springs in Marshall County; the North Mississippi region; and the state environs that shaped her. She was a private witness to her nuclear family’s transition from slavery to freedom and a public participant in the Black Marshall County community’s efforts to pursue political and economic equity despite economic exploitation and political repression. This article brings to the surface the emergence of a community of assertive Black women whose actions had lifelong impacts on Wells-Barnett. This article also considers contemporary (mis)understandings of Black womanhood through efforts to commemorate Wells-Barnett on the University of Mississippi campus and the authors’ development of an Ida B. Wells-Barnett Commemorative tour in Marshall County.


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pp. 20-41
Launched on MUSE
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