Ida: The Teacher’s Resource

Sample Syllabus


Journalism That Changed the World:

Ida B. Wells Writing Against the Bias


53-1500 J Sec. 1

One credit 2011 J-Term course


Class day, time, room/location  12:30-3:20 p.m.  Jan. 5, 7, 10,12,14

Columbia College Chicago 33 E. Congress, Second Floor, Room 215


Instructor: Dr. Norma Green Office: c201-S Phone 312 369-8920


Course Description: This seminar course involves a close reading of primary sources by Ida B. Wells (1862-1931)–her news articles and investigative reports. Her reporting and writing styles will be examined along with contextual information from her diaries and correspondence as well as newfound evidence of her lasting contributions and legacy. Prerequisite: Writing & Rhetoric I


Learning Outcomes:

  • Analyze writing and reporting elements of the texts
  • Identify personal and professional challenges of the journalist
  • Assess the short term and long term impact of writing



In-Class Discussion/ Participation  30%

In-Class Assignments/quizzes         20%

Final Paper/Presentation                  50%


Required Readings from Paperback Texts:


Southern Horrors and Other Writings; The Anti-Lynching Campaign 1892-1900 by Ida B.Wells and intro. by Jacqueline Jones Royster (New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1996)

Includes her 3 most famous pamphlets: Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases; A Red Record and Mob Rule in New Orleans.


Ida From Abroad: The timeless writings of Ida B. Wells from England in 1894

Compiled and written by Michelle Duster (Chicago: Benjamin Williams Publishing,                                 2010)








Five Session Schedule


Wed., Jan. 5

Session 1: Overview—Context for Courage against the Odds

Ida Bell Well’s biography (1862-1931)


DVD/Video: “A Passion for Justice,” William Greaves production for the American Experience (PBS).


In-Class Read & Discuss: The Reason Why the Colored American is Not in the World’s Columbia Exposition (1893).  Copies will be provided to you.


Course Tie-in to 2010-11Critical Encounters theme: Image & Implication:

A towering giant of U.S. journalism was a 4 ft. 6 in. African-American woman born a slave in the nineteenth century South.  Orphaned at 16, she became a teacher to support her five siblings but soon turned to journalism to crusade internationally against injustice. Long before Rosa Parks in 1955 Alabama and even Mohandas Gandhi’s struggle in 1893 South Africa to maintain purchased seats on segregated mass transit, Wells won her 1884 lawsuit against a railroad though the verdict was later overturned.  She wrote about it for Tennessee newspapers.  Eventually she became co-owner and editor of Memphis Free Speech and Headlight, a newspaper that was later ransacked and burned to the ground because of her searing editorials and investigative articles proclaiming the innocence of lynching victims. Defying death threats, she continued to write in the North and abroad.  She eventually moved to Chicago, married a lawyer/newspaper editor, had four children and carried on her activism including starting civic clubs for black women, co-founding the NAACP and running for an Illinois Senate seat.


Until fairly recently, she was an overlooked journalist–a mere footnote in history—known more as a name of a Chicago housing  project than as a courageous pioneer willing to risk her life to speak truth to power. Recent scholarship indicates she was in the forefront of early U.S. movements for civil rights, women’s suffrage and Progressivism but was often marginalized and misunderstood by black male leaders and white women reformers including W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington; Frances E. Willard and Jane Addams. Further, the author of a new book argues that Wells’ fight against lynching (a terrorism “tool used to regulate behavior and the manner in which public opinion is shaped and lived out in the private sector”) is a viable option to address modern forms of oppression.


Biographical References:

Crusade for Justice: the Autobiography of Ida B. Wells by Ida B. Wells and Alfreda M. Duster (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); To Keep the Waters Troubled: The Life of Ida B. Wells by Linda O. McMurry (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000);

To Tell the Truth Freely: the Life of Ida B. Wells by Mia Bay (Hill & Wang, 2010);

The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells: An Intimate Portrait of the Activist as a Young Woman ed. by Mirian Decosta-Willis (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995)


Image & Implication References:

Invisible Giants: Fifty Americans who shaped the nation but missed the history books ed. by Mark Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); Giving a Voice to the Voiceless: Four Pioneering Black Women Journalists by Jinx Coleman Broussard (new York: Routledge, 2004); Manliness & Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender & Race in the United States, 1880-1917 by Gail Bederman (University of California Press, 1995);

Race in feminism: Critiques of bodily self-determination in Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Anna Julia Cooper by Stephanie Athey (Boston: William Monroe Trotter Institute, University of Massachusetts at Boston, 1996); Raising Her Voice: African-American Women Journalists Who Changed History by Rodger Streitmatter (University Press of Kentucky, 1994); Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the Rhetorical Tradition by Andrea A. Lunsford, ed. (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995); We are coming: the persuasive discourse of nineteenth century Black women by Shirley Wilson Logan (Southern Illinois University Press, 1999)


Homework for Jan. 7: Read in Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases



* * *


Fri. Jan. 7

Session 2:  Writing Truth to Power: Against Modern Era Terrorism


DVD/Video: Rise & Fall of Jim Crow: Part 1 Promises Betrayed (1865-1896)


Discuss Lynch Law in All its Phases


References: Ida: A Sword Among Lions  (Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching) by Paula J. Giddings (New York: Amistad, 2008); The Other Reconstruction: Where Violence and Womanhood Meet in the Writings of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Angelina Weld Grimke, and Nella Larsen (Studies in African American History and Culture) by Ericka M. Miller (New York: Routledge, 1999)


Homework for Jan. 10: Read in Southern Horrors:A Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynchings in the United States, 1892-1893-1894

* * *

Mon. Jan. 10

Session 3:


Discuss A Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynchings in the United States, 1892-1893-1894 (1895


DVD/Video: Rise & Fall of Jim Crow: Part 2: Fighting Back (1896-1917)


References: Ethical Complications of Lynching: Ida B. Wells’s Interrogation of American Terror (Black Religion/Womanist thought/Social Justice) by Angela D. Sims (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)


Homework for Jan. 12: Read Ida From Abroad: The Timeless Writings of Ida B. Wells from England in 1894, compiled and written by Michelle Duster.


* * *

Wed. Jan. 12

Session 4:


Guest Speaker: Meet with great-granddaughter and author Michele Duster


Discuss Ida From Abroad: the Timeless Writings of Ida B. Wells from England in 1894


Homework: Read in Southern Horrors: Mob Rule in New Orleans: Robert Charles and His Fight to the Death and complete essay assignment.

* * *

Friday, Jan. 14

Session 5: Lighting the Way: Well’s legacy


 Discuss Mob Rule in New Orleans: Robert Charles and His Fight to the Death (1900)


Class Presentations/Discussion


Turn in typed essay



Civic Passions: Seven Who Launched Progressive America (And What They Teach Us)

By Cecelia Tichi (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009); Ida B. Wells-Barnett and American Reform, 1880-1930 by Patricia A. Schecter (University of North Carolina Press, 2000); Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America by Karenna Gore Schiff (New York: Hyperion, 2005); Voices of the Silenced: The Responsible Self in a Marginalized Community by Darryl M. Trimiew (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1993)




Disclaimer:  This syllabus may be amended as the course proceeds.  You will be notified of all changes.







Write a 750-word essay around the theme of What Would Ida Do Today?


It can discuss her legacy or who the Idas of today may be.


Consider what you’ve learned in your readings and class discussions as you craft your essay.


It can tie in to the general all-college theme of Critical Encounters this year—Image and Implication: The importance and impact of the images we confront and create.


Here are some questions to ponder:


  • How do images determine the way we see our world and our role in it?
  • How do our images of other people affect the way we respond to them?
  • What kinds of images foment action?
  • What is our responsibility as media makers/image-creators?


Your essay should make one solid point or have a central focus.


Try to make that point by telling a story; use description and anecdotes to bring your story to life for readers.


Successful essays will be considered for publication in the “Making Meaning” space in the weekly Columbia Chronicle newspaper.



Your in-class presentation will be done by taking turns going around the seminar table to discuss your insights with your classmates.









Columbia’s grading system is listed below.  Grades reflect the instructor’s evaluation of a student’s achievement, improvement, effort, and motivation within the framework of the system.


Grade           Description                Grade Points


A                   Excellent                     4.0   

A-                                                       3.7

B+                                                      3.3

B                    Above Average          3.0

B-                                                       2.7

C+                                                      2.3

C                   Average                       2.0

C-                                                       1.7

D                   Below Average            1.0

F                    Failure                         0.0

FX                 Failure for Non           0.0



P                    Pass                              0.0

I                     Incomplete                  0.0

R                    Course Repeated        0.0

W                   Withdrawal                0.0



Class, Department and College Policies


Adding/Dropping Courses:  Classes can be added until the day before the class meets.  The drop deadline is the end of the first meeting day of the class.  The withdrawal deadline is the day after the first class meeting.


Attendance: Preparation, punctuality and attendance are expected in all journalism courses, just as they are in the workplace.  The Journalism Faculty plans its curriculum and each class meeting to build on previous instruction and experience.  It is virtually impossible to make up unique class experiences, speakers and projects.  Unless there are serious, documented extenuating circumstances, you are expected to attend each of the five sessions of these short J-Term course which runs over a 10-day period.


Grading Requirements: Students who enter as of Fall 2005 must earn a C (not a C-) or better in a journalism course for it to count toward their journalism major.  If a student does not meet the C standard in a prerequisite, the student cannot progress to a subsequent course.


Repeating a Course for Credit:  If you do not earn the minimum C grade required to count toward your journalism major, you will have to repeat the course (or take an alternative course if your concentration includes that option).  You may take a course a total of three times in your effort to earn a C or better grade.  You will not be permitted to take it a fourth time.  The is policy applies to any course taken in the Fall 2008 semester and beyond.  Any attend to complete this course prior to Fall 2008 will not be counted toward the three-attempts limit on repeating this course.  Students must speak with a journalism faculty advisor before taking a course for a third time after Fall 2008.


Source Lists Policy: A source list must be attached to reporting assignments.  Example: name, identifying information, phone number and/or email address.


Inappropriate Source Lists Policy: Students may not use family or friends as resources in their reporting assignments.  In most cases, it’s usually inappropriate for students to use students and faculty members from the College Journalism Department as sources.  When in doubt, consult your instructor


Multiple Submissions Policy: The same or similar stories using the same sources written for other courses will not be accepted without prior approval from the instructors in both classes.  Turning in such work without prior approval could result in an “F” for the assignment.  If in doubt, ask your instructor.


Incomplete Grade Policy: An “Incomplete” grade will be granted in rare emergency instances, with both instructor and student signing the agreement, and only in conformance with college-wide policy.  For the full policy statement and a copy of the Student-Faculty Agreement for Incomplete Grade form, go to


Services for Students with Disabilities Statement:  Students with disabilities are requested to present their Columbia accommodation letters to their instructors at the beginning of the first class so accommodations can be arranged in a timely manner by the College, the department or the faculty member, as appropriate.  Students with disabilities who do not have accommodation letters should visit the office of Services for Students with Disabilities in Suite 306 of the 623 S. Wabash building, or call (312-369-8134/V or 312-369-0767/TTY).  It is incumbent upon the students to know their responsibilities in this regard.






Academic Honesty Policy

of Columbia College Chicago Journalism Department


Academic honesty is expected of all students.  All quotes and source material must be properly attributed.  Your reporting must be truthful, accurate and free of fabrication.  Any work you present as your own must be your own.


Violations of this policy include plagiarism, fabrication and any other form of cheating.  An instructor who suspects a violation will discuss the matter confidentially with the student.  If the matter remains unresolved, the issue will be referred to the Journalism Department Chairperson and the Academic Integrity Committee.  Consequences of violating the policy may include failing the assignment, failing the course or a recommendation of suspension or expulsion from the college.


Academic Honesty Definitions


Cheating: the conscious use of unauthorized, prohibited or unacknowledged materials or methods.


Fabricating: The conscious falsification or invention of information, interpretation, or source materials.


Facilitating Academic Dishonesty:  the conscious participation, in any manner, in another student’s commission of any academically dishonest act.


Plagiarizing: The conscious representation of words, ideas, figures, or materials from other sources as one’s own.


Elaboration & Examples:

Cheating: Unless told otherwise by their instructors, students should assume the examinations are to be completed without the use of books, notes, or conversation with others.  Students who intentionally use or attempt to use unauthorized information in any academic exercise, including exams, are cheating.


Fabricating: Fabrication is the unauthorized and conscious falsification of information in an academic exercise.  For example, it is dishonest to “invent” a quote, a scene or a statistic.


Facilitating Academic Dishonesty:  Students who make their work available for another student to submit as his or her own, whether exactly or in an altered form are facilitating academic dishonesty, as are students who allow others to copy their answers on examinations.  Aiding and abetting other students’ dishonesty is a serious breach of the academic honesty policy and is itself punishable just as cheating, fabricating and plagiarizing are.


Plagiarizing: The Random House Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language defines plagiarism as “the unauthorized use of the language and thought of another author and the representation of them as one’s own.”  Any conscious failures to accurately and completely document all uses of source materials constitute academic dishonesty.  Source materials may include, but are not limited to, printed books, magazines and newspapers, electronic media, oral reports, speeches, statistical information or analyses, anecdotal comments, visual media, musical performances, theatrical performances and official or legal documents.









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