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Panel to discuss turn-of-the-century clash between Ida B. Wells and Frances Willard

Event will kick off community history project “Truth Telling: Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells”

Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells
“Truth Telling: Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells,” a community history project, kicks off on Thursday March 14 with a public reception and panel discussion in Harris Hall. Space is limited, and reservations are recommended.

Northwestern University, the Frances Willard House Museum and Loyola University have partnered to uncover the full truth about a turn-of-the-century clash between anti-lynching crusader and pioneering journalist Ida B. Wells and Frances Willard, president of Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and Northwestern’s first dean of women students.

“Truth Telling: Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells,” a community history project, kicks off on Thursday March 14 with a public reception and panel discussion in Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road. Refreshments will be served at a brief reception beginning at 5:30 p.m. in Harris, Room 108, with a panel discussion led by Leslie Harris, Northwestern University professor and leading scholar of African American history, to follow from 6 to 8 p.m. in Harris, Room 107.

Space is limited, and reservations are recommended. RSVP at this link or call 847-328-7500.

In the 1890s, Wells and Willard fought a war of words in the international press over Willard’s lack of public support for Wells’ anti-lynching campaign. Wells called Willard’s moral leadership into question and demanded that Willard and the WCTU join her anti-lynching campaign. Ultimately, under Willard’s leadership, the WCTU eventually passed resolutions opposing lynching, but Willard’s language and actions complicate her legacy.

Until now, this story has never been told at the museum and archives, the institution dedicated to Willard's life and legacy.

Northwestern, Loyola and the museum are committed to presenting all sides of Willard’s life and work in order to explore the conflict between these two significant American women as one part of the ongoing story of racism in America.

The project includes a digital exhibit of original archival sources, community conversations and public programs. The goal of the project is to uncover the full truth of the conflict, and explore its many meanings and ramifications for our world today. The launch event will include a view of the in-progress digital exhibit, a panel discussion with invited scholars, and audience feedback and conversations.

The effort is benefiting from extensive support from Northwestern, including the Office of the Provost, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, University Libraries, Pritzker School of Law, the departments of history, African American studies, the gender and sexuality studies Program, the Office of Neighborhood and Community Relations, and the Center for Diversity and Democracy and the Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies.

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