Ida B Takes on the Chicago Tribune


Ida B Takes on the Chicago Tribune


Ida B at work. Another glimpse of the master persuader, via the beautiful 2d edition of her autobiography. Great foreword by @eveewing & afterword by @MichelleDuster about preserving the legacy. 🧵

In 1900 the Chicago Tribune runs stories lauding the benefits of segregated schools. They interview racist local parents and superintendents of segregated systems in St. Louis, Baltimore & Washington DC.

Ida’s husband observes that @chicagotribune is on a segregationist crusade.

Ida writes the editor, pointing out that “everybody had been quoted on the subject of separate schools except those most vitally concerned--the Negroes.” She asks if he’ll meet with a delegation to discuss.

The editor doesn’t reply, so Ida shows up at his office.

He ignores her, assuming any Black woman at his doorstep is soliciting funds for her church. Ida laughs it off and demands his attention.

He is utterly unsympathetic to the school segregation question, and they move quickly to the heart of the matter: political power.

“He said that he did not believe that it was right that ignorant Negroes should have the right to vote and to rule white people [when] they were in the majority.”

Ida replies that she doesn’t think “white men in the First Ward flophouses” are any more worthy of the franchise.

“Even so, I was not disposed to condemn all white people because of that situation nor deprive the better class of them of their rights in the premises.”

The editor says he doesn’t have time to waste on a meeting, but he’ll publish her letter, space permitting.

“I told him that the delegation of Negroes whom I had hoped to bring to him would not waste his time, because they were too busy at their different occupations and could ill afford to waste their time or his own in fruitless discussion.” 🔥💜

The editor, Robert W. Patterson, belonged to one of the most powerful families in Chicago. His father-in-law was Joseph Medill, owner of the Tribune & Mayor of Chicago in the 1870s. Ida knows a boycott won’t work - the community is too small. So she changes strategy. Jul

Ida asks Jane Addams to invite the leading citizens of Chicago to Hull House @JAHHM for a meeting that Sunday.

Addams gathers editors of the competing papers, ministers and rabbis, white club women, and members of the Board of Ed to hear Ida make the case.

“I told how separate schools always meant inferior schools for Negro children while at the same time making a double tax burden. I told of my interview with the editor of the Tribune and how I had been made to realize that there was absolute indifference to whatever the Negro thought or felt about the matter...It was their civic and financial influence which the Tribune respected...Would they use that power to help us, the weaker brothers, secure here in Chicago an equal chance with the children of the white races?”

It works. As a result of Ida’s effort, Jane Addams leads a group of seven eminent Chicagoans to meet with the Tribune. The articles stop. The @chicagotribune doesn’t shill for segregated schools again during Ida’s lifetime. #BlackSuffragists #CenturyofStruggle #Vanguard


Daily Suffragist






Daily Suffragist, “Ida B Takes on the Chicago Tribune,” Daily Suffragist, accessed June 24, 2024,

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