An 1800s predecessor of Rosa Parks, Wells refused to give up her train seat to a white man. After being forcefully dragged from the "ladies' car," she sued the railroad for violating the 1875 Civil Rights Act, which forbade discrimination in public accommodations until 1896. The controversy launched her career as a journalist.
After the lynching of three friends, she lambasted Memphis for winking at the crime and later moved to Chicago.
"There is therefore only one thing left to do; save our money and leave a town which ... takes us out and murders us in cold blood when accused by white persons," she wrote. In addition to her work for women's rights and more, Wells was one of only two female signers of the NAACP charter.
Leona Harris, director of the Ida B. Wells Museum, said knowing of Wells' contributions to civil rights and other values is vital to north Mississippians.
"Learning history teaches you to be proud of who you are," Harris said. "She's part of our history here in Holly Springs."
Some of the festivities for the Ida B. Wells birthday are at the Eddie L. Smith Multipurpose Building on Highway 7 North. Authors and artists offer books and paintings related to black history and north Mississippi, and tour groups are assembled there to make their way to and through the museum. This morning, celebrants will also dedicate a monument to Wells' parents and little brother at Hill Crest Cemetery in Holly Springs.
Ron Herd of Memphis visited the museum on Friday in search of new inspiration.
"So many great people have come out of Mississippi," he said. "This lady added her own greatness."