African American Lives 2 -- Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
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grandmother, great aunts and great uncles Holly Springs, MS; Robinsonville, MS; and Memphis, TN 1860s Robinsonville, Mississippi oral history

It has long been the family belief that through my maternal grandmother (Irene Wells-Mhoon d. 2007); we are related to Ida B. Wells Barnett. My grandmother was born in Robinsonville, MS in 1929 to Henry and Sally Wells. The story I have always heard is that Henry's father and Ida B's father were brothers. When I entered colleged in 1990, the story followed me to the School of Journalism at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. When I advised professors of our family story, I was bombarded with questions and even asked to pose in front of Ida B's photo. Her photo was part of the Tennessee Journalists Wall of Fame. Her photo was the sole black face on the wall. There is a photo of a young Ida B. (in many books written about her) that is strikingly similar to the way my fraternal twin sister looks. If this story is not true, it probably would devastate my family, but I've always wanted to know if there is indeed a link. She was married into the Barnett family, but the Wells family in Memphis is huge and we've always felt a since of pride in Ida. I also have aunts who teach in the Memphis City School system, as Ida B taught in the 1880s. As a writer myself, I have always felt a strong connection to Ida B.

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