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Michelle Duster    

Public Historian, Equity Advocate & Award-Winning Author Known for "Ida B. the Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells"

Michelle Duster is an author, public historian, educator, and champion of racial and gender equity who has worked for over 30 years in various mediums to highlight the positive contributions of women and African Americans to the United States. She has written, edited, or contributed to numerous articles and over 20 books, plus worked on monuments, markers, murals, statues, documentary films, and film festivals -- all to tell stories that have frequently been omitted, skewed or marginalized.

She is determined to help current and future generations be exposed to and inspired by more inclusive and truthful representation. Her most recent books about her great-grandmother Ida B. Wells are the picture book, "Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth" and the adult book "Ida B. the Queen." She also co-edited the anthologies "Impact: Personal Portraits of Activism" and "Michelle Obama’s Impact on African American Women and Girls."

Speech Topics


Make an Impact: Lessons from Ida B. Wells and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The combined lifespans of these two leaders is over one hundred years of struggle for freedom, justice, and racial equality. Their lives overlapped by two years, so one can think that Wells passed the activist baton to King. Although they were two generations apart, they have a lot in common. Michelle Duster highlights the similarities between these two activists and offers suggestions on how today’s leaders can make an impact by adopting some of the strategies used by Wells and King.

Ida B. Wells & Today's Street Journalism

Information included in the mainstream media has historically been told through an overwhelmingly white male lens. As a result, the perspectives and realities of African Americans tend to be overlooked, skewed, or erased. In order to combat this, some have taken initiative to report their own realities. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Ida B. Wells took control, countered false narratives, and chronicled the realities of lynchings and riots during her time. A century later, the African American community is still impacted by racial inequality and state-sanctioned violence. Writer, speaker, educator, Michelle Duster, will discuss how her paternal great-grandmother, Ida B. Wells pioneered data journalism and how that tradition contributes to truth and justice.

From 1919 Black Awakening to 2021 Black Lives Matter Movement

In this conversation, centered on her book Ida B the Queen and essay featured in Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America Michelle Duster, author, speaker, and educator will touch on the events leading up to, during, and following the race riots of the Red Summer of 1919. She will explain how the lack of implementation of solutions presented after that summer’s riots are tied to the current social and civil unrest.

African American Suffragists and the Struggle for Inclusion

Even though the suffrage movement was focused on women gaining the right to vote, the battle was mostly fought separately along racial lines. White women shunned and marginalized African American women, which propelled them to form their own groups. Author, speaker, and educator, Michelle Duster explains the racial divisions that her great-grandmother, Ida B. Wells, and other suffragists experienced and how the struggle for African American women to be included extends to today’s struggle for inclusion in the documentation and commemorations of the movement as well as current voting rights.

Ida B. Wells and Family Legacy of Determination, Education & Agitation

Author, speaker and educator, Michelle Duster will discuss the work and legacy of her paternal great-grandmother, Ida B. Wells, and the multi-generational family efforts to make sure her ancestor's contributions to the country are recognized and honored. The author of Ida B the Queen has worked on a PBS documentary film, edited two books that include her ancestor's writing, a Chicago monument, an honorary street name, a public marker, and a major downtown Chicago street. She consults on other national projects that feature her ancestor. In addition, she manages the Ida B. Wells Memorial Foundation which provides college scholarships and supports public history projects that include Ida B. Wells.

Ida B. Wells lived through violent and lawless times which is explained and discussed. The composition of the audience determines the level of detail and selection of images that will be included.

Preserve and Celebrate Your Own History of Family, Community or Institutions

Author, speaker and educator, Michelle Duster will discuss how it is possible to take control of your own story and document personal, family, community or institutional history. She will discuss what was involved in researching her book Ida B the Queen, but also more personal booklets that she created for family reunions and extensive obituaries that documented and captured detailed information about family members. She explains how various mediums and techniques can be used to document, preserve, and promote history.

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Creating Racial and Gender Equity in Statuary Form

The history of the United States that is represented through monuments, murals, markers, cultural sites, and naming of public spaces is dominated by white men. The lack of equitable mention or inclusion of women and minorities creates a false narrative for our country. Author, speaker, and educator, Michelle Duster will discuss the work she has done to shine light of her great-grandmother, Ida B. Wells, and other women leaders and trailblazers. She will explain the process involved with the creation of a monument, historical marker, major street renaming, honorary street name, and substantial mural.

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