Thursday, July 20, 2006
Ida Wells’ legacy lives through celebration
By SUE WATSON
Alfreda Ferrell, granddaughter of civil rights legend Ida B. Wells, expressed appreciation and spoke of the growing annual celebration of the life of her ancestor who spoke out against lynching and was a forerunner of icons in the civil rights movement like Martin Luther King Jr.
“This is fantastic,” Ferrell said. “I’ve been coming down here before they had real big celebrations. It was called the Ida B. Wells Family Art Gallery and I watched it grow from there.
“I’m very, very inspired by what has become the museum and by the support the town of Holly Springs has given to this project. It gets bigger every year and that’s a nice thing.”
About 15 descendants, consisting mostly of grandchildren and great- grandchildren of Ida B. Wells, were expected at the weekend event July 14-16.
Ferrell had no contact with Ida B. Wells, who was born in Holly Springs, moved to Memphis and later travelled the world speaking out against lynching of African Americans. Her autobiography, recorded in her notes and typed by her son, were passed on to Ferrell’s mother. The typed pages remained but Ida B. Wells’ handwritten notes were lost.
The celebration acknowledges the efforts of early civil rights workers like Wells and builds on what was accomplished.
In opening prayer, Autriniece Folsom called attention to the need to remember.
“May we never forget those who have gone on who laid the way for us,” she said.
Mayor Andre’ Deberry echoed that prayer saying it is important to keep the legacy of Ida B. Wells alive.
Evelyn Elliott spoke of how Wells spoke out against injustice during a time when women were supposed to be seen, not heard.
“She kept finding ways (to speak out),” Elliott said.
“We encourage all of you to help us to make a difference and find ways of raising funds (for the museum).”
Ferrell said she doesn’t remember the date of her first Ida B. Wells reunion and has missed only one since she first came to the yearly homecoming event.
“I flew in to Memphis and they were picking me up to drive me down to Holly Springs,” she continued. “The plane was an hour late and I was supposed to talk. We were at least two hours late.
“Up north, if you are not there, people go ahead and eat and you get what’s left. Well, when I came in, everybody was sitting and nobody had touched the food. I got a key to the city from Mayor Eddie Lee Smith. That was my introduction to Holly Springs.”
Ferrell thanked museum curator Leona Harris and the city for the upkeep of the Ida B. Wells Family Art Gallery. The City of Holly Springs owns the property and upkeep is done with grants and matching funds raised by the museum.
“It’s going to get better and better,” Ferrell said.
This year’s celebration and picnic were set up under the trees of historic Spring Hollow Park. Brother James Coleman and Elliott led the singing at opening celebrations.
The music consisted of a mixture of spirituals and civil rights movement songs.
Enola Kimmons and Mamie Nunnally were in charge of the fish fry and barbecue plate luncheon Friday.
A tour of the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis was scheduled for Saturday and a banquet Saturday night.
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