Balancing Personal and Professional Lives

Ida B. Wells met her match in Mr. Ferdinand Lee Barnett, a prominent attorney, activist, feminist, and fellow journalist, as publisher of The Conservator, the first African American newspaper in Chicago. Still, her career remained of the utmost importance; she even postponed their wedding three times in order to maintain her rigorous anti-lynching lecture schedule. Their marriage on June 27th, 1895 was front page news, and the actual event was covered by several newspapers for both black and white readers. The couple raised four children, while Wells continued to advocate for civil and women’s rights through her writing and public speaking.

Years later, Langston Hughes commented on the marriage and noted the mutual interests of the Barnetts,

In 1895 Ida B. Wells married another crusader, A Chicago newspaper man, Ferdinand L. Barnett, and together they continued their campaign for equal rights for Negro Americans. They broadened the field of their activities, too, to include every social problem of importance in the Windy City where they lived.

Photograph of Ferdinand L. Barnett, 1906/1908

Ida B. Wells. Papers

Ida B. Wells-Barnett with her children, 1909

Ida B. Wells. Papers

Ida B. Wells (standing) with her four children with husband Ferdinand Lee Barnett. From left: Charles Aked; Ida B. Wells, Jr., Alfreda Marguerita; and, Herman Kohlsaat.