UofM Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change Receives $4,000 Grant to Support Documentary Film on Civil Rights Activist Ida B. Wells

January 16, 2019 - The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis received a $4,000 grant from Gannett Foundation to support its feature-length documentary film on journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells.

About the Gannett Foundation

The Gannett Foundation is a corporate foundation sponsored by Gannett Co. Inc. Through its Community Grant Program, Gannett Foundation supports nonprofit activities in the communities in which Gannett does business. Through its other programs, the foundation invests in the future of the media industry, encourages employee giving, reacts to natural and other disasters, and contributes to a variety of charitable causes.

"The Commercial Appeal is pleased to honor and support the work of The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis through a grant from the Gannett Foundation," said Michael Jung, the newspaper's president/market leader. "The story of civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, and her courageous reporting of lynching and mob violence against African Americans, is compelling and needs to be elevated and understood."

About the Hooks Institute Documentary on Ida B. Wells

The Hooks Institute's documentary film on Wells explores in depth how her experiences in Memphis during the late 19th century shaped her civil rights activism and journalism later in life. During her time in Memphis, Wells used the power of journalism to expose the injustices of lynching, a type of extralegal execution often taking the form of mob violence against African Americans, which was on the rise in the late 19th century. Wells' zealous efforts to combat the lynching of African Americans was fueled in large part by the lynchings of Thomas Moss (a friend of Wells), Calvin McDowell and William Stewart in 1892. Her uncompromising writing angered local Memphians, and as a result, Wells was forced into exile from Memphis and her newspaper was destroyed. However, Wells continued the fight for justice on an international stage, taking her campaign against lynching as far as England. Through her work, lynching was exposed as a means of social control of African Americans through violence. The Hooks Institute's film positions Wells as a pivotal actor in a continuing struggle for equality, freedom and human rights that endures to this day, while highlighting the power of a free press in this struggle.

About the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change

The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute implements its mission of teaching, studying and promoting civil rights and social change through research, education, and direct intervention programs. For 20 years, we have addressed disparities related to education, diversity and inclusion, economic mobility and civic engagement. To learn more about current initiatives, visit our website at memphis.edu/benhooks.


Nathaniel C. Ball | 901.678.3655 | ncball@memphis.edu