2011 Legends and Living Legacy Awards
Legend: Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Journalist and anti-lynching crusader.
Ida B. Wells was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862. Wells was born into slavery just six months before President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation liberating slaves in the confederate states.
As a teenager, she received her formal education at Rust University, a freedman’s high school. But her time there ended when her parents and three of her siblings fell severely ill with yellow fever and passed away in the late 1870s.
During the spring of 1884, a train ride from Memphis would prove to be the beginning of Ida B. Wells’ lifelong public campaign against the inequities faced by African Americans throughout the south. After purchasing a first-class ticket and taking her seat, the conductor told her to move to the forward car—a smoking car, to which she refused.
After this experience, Wells became a successful journalist in Memphis. In 1892, three of her friends were lynched. Wells wrote about the lynching and as a result white citizens burned her newspaper office and ran her out of town. Wells moved to Chicago and founded numerous organizations for African American women, and became involved in the suffrage movement. Along with Jane Addams, she successfully prevented Chicago from establishing segregated schools.
In 1895, Wells married Attorney F.L. Barnett, who was the editor of one of Chicago’s black newspapers. Wells-Barnett was also involved in the founding of the NAACP. In 1931, she died at the age of sixty-nine. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was one of our nation’s most fearless crusaders for African American and women’s rights, using the power of her pen to effect meaningful change.
Legacy: Cathy Hughes
Cathy Hughes received the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Living Legacy Award for her accomplishments in the field of media and communications.
Cathy Hughes is the Founder and Chairperson of Radio One, Inc., the largest African American owned and operated broadcast company in the nation. Radio One is also the first African American company in radio history to dominate several major markets simultaneously and possesses the first woman-owned radio station to rank #1 in any major market.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, she moved to Washington, D.C. in 1971 and became a lecturer at the School of Communications at Howard University. She entered radio in 1973 as the General Sales Manager at WHUR, Howard University Radio. In 1975, Hughes became the first woman Vice President and General Manager of a station in the nation’s capital and created the format known as the “Quiet Storm,” which revolutionized urban radio and was aired on over 480 stations nationwide. Purchasing her first station in 1980, Hughes pioneered yet another innovative format—“24 hour Talk from a Black Perspective.”
Hughes’ dedication to minority communities, entrepreneurial spirit, and mentoring of women are manifested in every aspect of her work and life. Radio One is now a public company, making Cathy Hughes the first, and only, African American woman to chair a publicly held corporation.
Like Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Hughes worked her way to the top. History is unfolding with the oratorical power of Hughes’ words just like it was over a century ago with the written words of Ida B. Wells-Barnett.