I imagined writing about my fun-loving grandfather, a proud veteran, who served this nation despite extreme racism and hatred he confronted his entire life -- on and off the battlefield. I dreamed of writing a book about my beautiful Aunt Rosie, who made the best potato salad I've ever tasted and had the rarest of gifts: making everyone around her feel deeply loved.
But it was after my father was murdered that I vowed to study hard, go to college and study journalism -- no simple goal for the daughter of a now-single mom struggling to raise three kids. But, I was determined. It was inexplicable to me that neither my dad's death -- nor the deaths of other black and brown people I knew -- ever made headlines, or, in my father's case, never even led to an arrest.
So, at 10-years-old, I made a plan.
Problem was, I had never met a journalist, let alone one who looked like me. Honestly, most people laughed when I told them my plans.
But I did know all about Ida B. Wells, the black woman and activist who was posthumously honored this week with a special Pulitzer Citation. The awards committee accepts submissions from deceased writers as long as the work is not a collection of writings that have been edited after the author's death. Other posthumous awards
have gone to musicians like Hank Williams
and composers Thelonious Monk
and George Gershwin
Wells was recognized for her work as one of the nation's first and most intrepid investigative reporters. Today, she is credited with helping to lay the very foundation for investigative reporting. The Pulitzer citation
comes with a bequest of at least $50,000
, with recipients to be announced at a later date.
Thanks to the well-worn set of Britannica encyclopedias proudly displayed in our tiny, third-floor apartment, and hours spent in the library reading black history books, I learned about Wells and her career early in my childhood. I loved reading about how this young, fearless black woman, born in 1862, had used the power of the pen to fight against injustice and racism.
Just after the Civil War, Wells launched a crusade against lynchings in the South and published pamphlets-turned books titled: "Southern Horrors
" and "The Red Record
." Her books used facts, firsthand information and statistics to record lynchings and details of the murders.
"In slave times the Negro was kept subservient and submissive by the frequency and severity of the scourging, but, with freedom, a new system of intimidation came into vogue; the Negro was not only whipped and scourged; he was killed," Wells wrote in "The Red Record," for which Frederick Douglass wrote the introduction.
Her work boldly challenged the pernicious