A Letter to Ida B. Wells on the Pulitzer Prize and her Legacy


Dr. Michelle Ferrier
March 5, 2020
Dear Ms. Ida B. Wells-Barnett,
I was so THRILLED to hear that you were honored Monday with a Pulitzer Prize for your tenacious and courageous journalism work! Of course, we know such accolades are long overdue, my dear! Your pioneering and lifesaving work called out the lynching horrors of the South AND lifted up the lives and experiences of African Americans. It is work for which you dedicated your life and sacrificed your safety. IMG_1639 3Yes, let us celebrate this recognition and this moment sister. Because for some of us, you are journalism, or at least the patron saint of all journalists of color and have long been celebrated among us. Brava Ida! Phenomenal woman. Pulitzer Prize Winner Ms. Ida B. Wells Barnett. We knew.
So let us bask in this moment of larger
recognition with you, Ida, and help others to learn from your Black girl magic.
However, your legacy, dear Ida, is so much bigger than a Pulitzer prize.
For me, dear sister, you have been a beacon, a touchstone and a guide to my own pathway to learning how to use my pen as a sword. You have demonstrated tenacity through your crusade for justice, truth and answers. You are who I channel daily and to whom I turn for courage in asking the hard questions and speaking truth to power. It is your face that peers out from my Facebook and Twitter profiles, long before your recent honors. It is your figure that resides over my bookshelves filled with my own journey as a journalist, a scholar and an activist.
Most recently, I’ve had to evoke your spirit in fighting online threats and toxicity, helping to shed a light on how this new form of digital lynching silences journalists of color and stories of communities of color. I’ve drawn upon your tenacity in uncovering sexual exploitation and harassment of college students. I channeled your creativity in designing innovation spaces to create new media forms and tools. I called on your strategic thinking to design new training and curriculum for students and journalism professionals. I used your leadership example to build a coalition of media professionals, students, technologists and others who are designing the future of journalism, community communications and media. All to ensure that stories by and for communities of color are part of our cultural narrative and our historical record. To ensure that our living – and our stories – matter.
We are your inheritors, because digging for the truth and telling it is a part of our lifeblood, as it was for you, dear Ida. We are your inheritors dear Ida, because we speak with courage to business leaders, technology companies, elected officials and philanthropists with the authority of knowledge, experience and conviction. We are your inheritors because we educate new journalists who ask the hard questions and keep pressing, pressing, pressing forward until answers and the truth can be told.
Your inheritors have lived your legacy and done the work. We are servant leaders, in your vein, committed to building our capacity to tell our own stories and write our own histories. Thank you, dear Ida, for leading the way.
Imagine better,


Dr. Michelle Ferrier


A Letter to Ida B. Wells on the Pulitzer Prize and her Legacy

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