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Ida B. Wells, Black journalist and suffragist, honored with new Barbie doll

The Ida B. Wells Barbie doll. (Jason Tidwell/Mattel)

Black American journalist, suffragist and anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells will have her likeness transformed into a Barbie doll to honor her historic achievements.

Wells, who was born into slavery in Mississippi in 1862 during the Civil War, went on to break boundaries as a prominent suffragist fighting to expand the right to vote.

Wells also won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for her “courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching” and helped to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

“Barbie is proud to honor the incredible Ida B. Wells as the newest role model in our Inspiring Women series, dedicated to spotlighting heroes who paved the way for generations of girls to dream big and make a difference,” an Instagram account for Barbie, a doll manufactured by Mattel, said in a post.

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Wells’s activism and work had brought “light to the stories of injustice that Black people faced in her lifetime,” Barbie said, adding that learning about “heroes” like Wells could help today’s children envision a better future.

Wearing a long black gown, white lace collar and black boots, the Wells Barbie doll clutches a copy of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight newspaper, which she co-owned.

The doll will go on sale in the United States starting Monday, coinciding with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and is part of the “Inspiring Women” series from Mattel. Other women represented in plastic include nurse Florence Nightingale, tennis star Billie Jean King and author Maya Angelou — the latter made history this week by becoming the first Black woman to appear on a U.S. quarter.

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Wells, who was also known as Wells-Barnett after she married prominent Black lawyer and writer Ferdinand Barnett in 1895, worked to confront racism in the women’s suffrage movement and wrote extensively on her belief in the power of the vote to protect Black people from the horrors of oppression, lynching and racial terrorism.

Widely regarded as one of the most courageous women in U.S. history, Wells stood less than 5 feet tall and began her activism after she was expelled from her local college following a dispute with the university president.

After a yellow fever epidemic killed her parents, she was left to raise her siblings, taking a teaching job to support her family, according to the National Women’s History Museum.

After the lynching of one of her friends, Wells “turned her attention to white mob violence,” the museum said, investigating cases and publishing her findings in pamphlets and newspapers in Memphis, enraging locals and putting her life at risk.

“I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or a rat in a trap,” Wells later wrote in her memoirs.

She traveled internationally, particularly to Europe, shedding light on lynching for foreign audiences. Wells died in 1931 in Chicago, where she had focused on issues of urban reform and social inequality.

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