What do Susan B. Anthony, Randy Shilts, and Ida B. Wells have in common, besides lives devoted to advocating for minority groups? I answered that question today while exploring a display titled “Too Long Have Others Spoken For Us” in the Newseum, a museum of news and journalism in the heart of Washington, D.C. There, I learned that all three activists created their own publications in order to more effectively advocate for social issues.
Susan B. Anthony, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, played a large role in the suffrage movement, fighting for women’s right to vote. The two women started their own newspaper in New York in 1868. It was called, fittingly enough, The Revolution. Although their newspaper eventually folded, it was an important tool for spreading information and mobilizing supporters in the fight for women’s suffrage.
Ida B. Wells fought against racial hatred and discrimination. After three of her friends were lynched in 1892, she took a stand by publishing her own newspaper and a book about the horrors of lynching in the South. Depsite her efforts, neither Congress nor the president passed an anti-lynching law until well after her death. Still, her tireless hard work paid off by informing the public of the racial atrocities and affected public opinion about how truly insidious racial discrimination could be.
Randy Shilts was a little different from Wells, Anthony, and Stanton. Although he certainly was an activist for the homosexual community, he described himself as first and foremost a journalist. His article on HIV and the government’s unsuccessful attempts to treat and prevent it led to a bestseller on the topic that brought the issue of HIV into the public arena.
According to the exhibit, “anyone who has had a story to tell usually has found a way to tell it.” Anthony, Wells, and Shilts are perfect examples of how communication and the way we tell our stories can change lives. Their stories are inspiring. Someday, I hope I can influence others by telling a story that matters.