Skip Nav

The Anti-Lynching Pamphlets of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1920

Find a copy online

❶Louisiana State University Press, She was confident to the point of vanity.

Find a copy in the library

Buffalo and Erie County Public Library
See a Problem?
Similar Books

More recent feminists note an additional purpose of the lynching for rape scenario: It was the issue of women's bodies that much of the controversy over Wells-Barnett's analysis and organizing focused in the s. She insisted that the so-called black rapist was in reality the innocent victim of both the mob's blood lust and white women's sexual lust.

Through the acknowledgement — even tacit endorsement — of the activities of "white Juliets [and] colored Romeos" Wells-Barnett countered white supremacists' dread of race mixing and degeneration with a story of potential racial equality. But because interracial marriage was prohibited by legal and social authorities, sexual contacts across the color line involving white women were stringently policed and those involving black women were ignored; both dynamics endangered black people much more than white.

Thus the anti-lynching pamphlets of the s comprised a comprehensive view of southern racialized sexual politics: Wells-Barnett's pamphlets documented not sideline suffering but attacks — lynching and rape — on black women and girls.

In so doing, she staked a claim of outraged womanhood for African American women that was first articulated by opponents of slavery but which was becoming unthinkable under white supremacist ideology nearing the end of the nineteenth century.

Wells-Barnett described the rape of black women as of a piece with the lynching of black men: Wells-Barnett accented race to make the case for unequal power across the color line. She and other southern African Americans were keenly aware that the rise of Jim Crow threatened to empower all "whites" over and against all "blacks" regardless of class status, Christian standing, or natural ability.

At moments, however, she tweaked the concept of "race" itself, mocking the very notion of fixed racial boundaries and the supposed "black and white of it" — a sarcastic reference to the ubiquitous newsprint carrying descriptions of — indeed, advertisements for — lynchings.

In other words, Wells-Barnett exposed how taken-for-granted concepts like "race" and "rape" were socially constructed and politically deployed.

In so doing, she challenged readers to examine the assumption that held their personal identities and sense of the social order together. It was a challenge few joined and many resisted, even to the point of violence.

The attacks on her Memphis newspaper office, the threat of lynching against her that appeared in print, and a physical assault in New York City underscored how assuming the power to "talk back" provoked defenders of white supremacy and meant her very life.

In this context, the pamphlets' concluding emphasis on action, self-help, and political strategies for change including coalitions with sympathetic whites merit attention.

Wells-Barnett's later writings engage the evolving patterns of racial conflict outside the southern context. These works suggest that stereotypes about black male deviance and depravity became more of an assumption than flag or banner for instigating and rationalizing racial attacks. Her analysis of riots in New Orleans, East St. Louis, and Arkansas involved critiques of the criminal justice system — law enforcement and the court system — which began to take over the work of black subordination in the twentieth century.

In her analysis of events in Arkansas in , Wells-Barnett attended to the ways in which black women as well as men became caught up in white supremacist campaigns and how they fought back. In all these writings, she emphasizes strategies for resistance. Over time, Ida B. Wells-Barnett's willingness to speak plainly about sexuality, her frank religious commitments in a skeptical and materialistic age, and her ideological rather than biological understanding of "race" in social life and politics fell out of favor with trends in social reform and civil rights agitation.

The NAACP, founded in , adopted a legislative approach to ending lynching, and a small handful of anti-lynching bills went down to defeat by the U. Senate in the interwar period.

Wells-Barnett's authority as a witness, southerner, and black woman drew on her status as victim and survivor. Ida's father was a master at carpentry; after the Civil War and emancipation, he was known as a "race man" who worked for the advancement of black people. He also attended public speeches and campaigned for local black candidates but never ran for office himself. Both of Ida's parents were active in the Republican Party during Reconstruction. Ida attended Shaw like her father, but she was expelled for rebellious behavior after confronting the college president.

Both of her parents and her infant brother Stanley died during that event, leaving her and her five other siblings orphaned.

Wells would find a number of men who served as father figures later in her life, particularly newspaper editor Alfred Froman , teacher Theodore W. Lott, and Josiah T. Settle with whom she boarded in and Ida B Wells [2].

Following the funerals of her parents and brother, friends and relatives decided that the six remaining Wells children should be split up and sent to various foster homes. Wells resisted this solution. To keep her younger siblings together as a family, she found work as a teacher in a black elementary school. Her paternal grandmother, Peggy Wells, along with other friends and relatives, stayed with her siblings and cared for them during the week while Wells was away teaching.

Without this help, she would not have been able to keep her siblings together. This discrimination made her more interested in the politics of race and improving the education of black people. In , Wells took three of her younger siblings to Memphis, Tennessee , to live with her aunt and to be closer to other family members. She also learned that she could earn higher wages there as a teacher than in Mississippi. Soon after moving, she was hired in Woodstock for the Shelby County school system.

She also attended Lemoyne-Owen College , a historically black college in Memphis. She held strong political opinions and provoked many people with her views on women's rights. The year before, the Supreme Court had ruled against the federal Civil Rights Act of which had banned racial discrimination in public accommodations. This verdict supported railroad companies that chose to racially segregate their passengers.

When Wells refused to give up her seat, the conductor and two men dragged her out of the car. Wells gained publicity in Memphis when she wrote a newspaper article for The Living Way, a black church weekly, about her treatment on the train. In Memphis, she hired an African-American attorney to sue the railroad. When her lawyer was paid off by the railroad, [15] she hired a white attorney.

The railroad company appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court , which reversed the lower court's ruling in It concluded, "We think it is evident that the purpose of the defendant in error was to harass with a view to this suit, and that her persistence was not in good faith to obtain a comfortable seat for the short ride.

Wells' reaction to the higher court's decision expressed her strong convictions on civil rights and religious faith, as she responded: O God, is there no She also wrote weekly articles for The Living Way weekly newspaper under the pen name "Iola," gaining a reputation for writing about the race issue.

In , she became co-owner and editor of Free Speech and Headlight, an anti-segregation newspaper that was started by the Reverend Taylor Nightingale and was based at the Beale Street Baptist Church in Memphis. It published articles about racial injustice. Wells was devastated but undaunted, and concentrated her energy on writing articles for The Living Way and the Free Speech and Headlight.

In , Thomas Moss, a friend of Wells, opened the Peoples Grocery in the "Curve", a black neighborhood just outside the Memphis city limits. Wells was close to Thomas Moss and his family, having stood as godmother to his first child. Moss' store did well and competed with a white-owned grocery store across the street. In , while Wells was out of town in Natchez, Mississippi , a white mob invaded her friends' store.

During the altercation, three white men were shot and injured. Moss and two other black men, named McDowell and Stewart, were arrested and jailed pending trial.

A large white lynch mob stormed the jail and killed the three men. After the lynching of her friends, Wells wrote in Free Speech and Headlight, urging blacks to leave Memphis altogether:.

There is, therefore, only one thing left to do; save our money and leave a town which will neither protect our lives and property, nor give us a fair trial in the courts, but takes us out and murders us in cold blood when accused by white persons.

Wells emphasized the public spectacle of the lynching. More than 6, black people did leave Memphis; others organized boycotts of white-owned businesses. After being threatened with violence, she bought a pistol. She later wrote, "They had made me an exile and threatened my life for hinting at the truth. Frederick Douglass [22].

The murder of her friends drove Wells to research and document lynchings and their causes. She began investigative journalism by looking at the charges given for the murders, which officially started her anti-lynching campaign. Wells found that black people were lynched for such social control reasons as failing to pay debts, not appearing to give way to whites, competing with whites economically, and being drunk in public.

She found little basis for the frequent claim that black men were lynched because they had sexually abused or attacked white women.

This alibi seemed to have partly accounted for white America's collective acceptance or silence on lynching, as well as its acceptance by many in the educated African-American community. Before her friends were lynched and she conducted research, Wells had concluded that "although lynching was…contrary to law and order…it was the terrible crime of rape [that] led to the lynching; [and] that perhaps…the mob was justified in taking his [the rapist's] life".

She published her findings in a pamphlet entitled "Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases. After the editorial was published, Wells left Memphis for a short trip to New England, to cover another story for the newspaper.

Her editorial enraged white men in Memphis. Their responses in two leading white newspapers, The Daily Commercial and The Evening Scimitar, were brimming with hatred; "the fact that a black scoundrel is allowed to live and utter such loathsome…calumnies is a volume of evidence as to the wonderful patience of southern whites. But we have had enough of it". Today, no copies are known to have survived. Numerous other studies have supported Wells' findings of lynching as a form of community control [28] and analyzed variables that affect lynching.

Beck and Tolnay's influential study found that economics played a major role, with the rate of lynchings higher when marginal whites were under threat because of uncertain economic conditions.

They concluded the following:. The relative size of the black population was also positively related to lynching. We conclude that mob violence against southern black people responded to economic conditions affecting the financial fortunes of southern whites—especially marginal white farmers.

According to scholar Oliver C. Cox in his article "Lynching and the Status Quo," the definition of lynching is "an act of homicidal aggression committed by one people against another through mob action…for the purpose of suppressing…[or] subjugating them further". In an effort to raise awareness and opposition to lynching, Wells spoke to groups in New York City, where her audiences included many leading African-American women.

On October 5, , a testimonial dinner held at Lyric Hall , organized by political activists and clubwomen, Victoria Earle Matthews and Maritcha Remond Lyons , raised significant funds for Wells' anti-lynching campaign.

The Women's Loyal Union of New York and Brooklyn was formed to organize black women as an interest group who could act politically. Because of the threats to her life, Wells left Memphis altogether and moved to Chicago. She continued to investigate lynching incidents and the ostensible causes in the cases, and to write columns attacking Southern injustices.

Her articles were published in black newspapers, like the The New York Age. She later purchased a partial ownership in the publication. Wells published an editorial on her investigation on lynching in her Memphis paper, The Free Speech. When her office was destroyed by a mob, she wrote a more detailed account in the New York Age a black newspaper in New York City. On October 26, , Wells published this research in a pamphlet titled Southern Horrors: Black economic progress was a contemporary issue in the South, and in many states whites worked to suppress black progress.

Wells-Barnett recommended that black people use arms to defend against lynching. She followed-up with greater research and detail in The Red Record , a page pamphlet describing lynching in the United States since the Emancipation Proclamation of It also covered black peoples' struggles in the South since the Civil War.

The Red Record explored the alarmingly high rates of lynching in the United States which was at a peak from to Wells-Barnett said that during Reconstruction, most Americans outside the South did not realize the growing rate of violence against black people in the South. She believed that during slavery, white people had not committed as many attacks because of the economic labour value of slaves.

Wells noted that, since slavery time, "ten thousand Negroes have been killed in cold blood, [through lynching] without the formality of judicial trial and legal execution. Frederick Douglass had written an article noting three eras of "Southern barbarism," and the excuses that whites claimed in each period.

Wells-Barnett gave 14 pages of statistics related to lynching cases committed from to ; she also included pages of graphic accounts detailing specific lynchings. She notes that her data was taken from articles by white correspondents, white press bureaus, and white newspapers. The Red Record was a huge pamphlet, and had far-reaching influence in the debate about lynching. Generally southern states and white juries refused to indict any perpetrators for lynching, although they were frequently known and sometimes shown in the photographs being made more frequently of such events.

Despite Wells-Barnett's attempt to garner support among white Americans against lynching, she believed that her campaign could not overturn the economic interests whites had in using lynching as an instrument to maintain Southern order and discourage Black economic ventures.

Ultimately, Wells-Barnett concluded that appealing to reason and compassion would not succeed in gaining criminalization of lynching by Southern whites. Wells-Barnett concluded that perhaps armed resistance was the only defense against lynching. Meanwhile, she extended her efforts to gain support of such powerful white nations as Britain to shame and sanction the racist practices of America.

Wells kept track of her life through diaries; in them, she writes few personal things. Before she was married, Wells said that she would date only those men with whom she had "little romantic interest," because she did not want romance to be the centre of the relationship.

When historians speak of the modern Civil Rights era in the U. Wells walks in the tradition of early crusaders for equal rights, establishing many of the techniques that were used in the modern Civil Rights Movement, with even if you can imagine les Many people don't know about the dynamism of Ida B.

Wells walks in the tradition of early crusaders for equal rights, establishing many of the techniques that were used in the modern Civil Rights Movement, with even if you can imagine less protection. On many an occassion she had to leave for safety quickly, and lost many friends, some of them quite close. Not only was Wells a fighter, she was a strategician - simply brillant. She is one of the first thinkers to clearly think lynching with a form of sexual violence and the broader connection to the sexual violence, degradation, and exploitativeness of slavery and the overall treatment of Black people and all people of color in the U.

Sep 11, Mark rated it it was amazing. Their names are anger and courage: But she also had th Saint Augustine wrote: Aug 26, Luke rated it really liked it Shelves: Tough historical documents - the first from is narrowly focused on bringing to light the regularity of mob violent murders without justice for reasons far from the claimed "honor of our white women".

The second from expands this to a national southern-dominated, by fact review of the varieties of brutality and range of justifications or circumventions of justice given for these terrorizing deaths.

The third from resonates most today, as with the others mostly commentary on newsp Tough historical documents - the first from is narrowly focused on bringing to light the regularity of mob violent murders without justice for reasons far from the claimed "honor of our white women". The third from resonates most today, as with the others mostly commentary on newspaper reports, of one mob riot against random black individuals in New Orleans following the injury and subsequent deaths of police.

Wells lays the presumptions and contortions to arrive at who is good and evil in these reports very bare, while blacks are killed for no reason and with no concern in the headlines of the days. Aug 13, Stephanie rated it really liked it. It is unsurprising, yet still disappointing, the similarities to police shootings today. The essay introduction was a bit of a slog but Ms Wells writes clearly and effectively. Oct 26, Andrew rated it really liked it. Immediately after the Reconstruction era in the United States, during a time when African Americans were expected to be subservient and accept their lot in society, Ida B.

Wells led a campaign against the violence which was perpetrated against not just Black men but women and children as well. This book contains three of her papers which were released as pamphlets and newspaper articles: They also show Wells to be an accomplished investigator gathering the relevant information to support her claims.

One can only be impressed with this woman and the campaign she led between and in not just highlighting the problem but proposing a solution. She was active in condemning Lynch Law and mob violence against Black people and showing it for what it was; part of the process of disfranchising African Americans. By raising awareness not just in the United States but internationally, and through concerted attempts to organise communities there were significant reductions in these atrocities for a period of time.

Nov 06, Chrissy rated it it was amazing. Assigned this for an African American history class; the first time I have done so. I assigned the introduction and "A Red Record. Students talked about Wells' use of statistics and case studies as well as why she chose to provide difficult and often gruesome details. On their own, students also considered the broader context of turn of the century d Assigned this for an African American history class; the first time I have done so. On their own, students also considered the broader context of turn of the century discourses of "civilization.

Previously, I had only read excerpts from Wells' writing. As many of my students pointed out, A Red Record is not a pleasant read but it is certainly important in helping us to understand turn of the century race relations.

In carefully crafted prose, Wells discusses the "supposed" causes of lynchings and argues that the reality was often quite different from the explanations provided by mainstream, white journalists.

The introduction does a nice job of sketching out Wells' life and placing these writings in a broader context. Aug 30, Okan Anuas rated it it was amazing. I was absolutely blown away by how brave, intelligent, and persuasive Ida B. Her anti-lynching pamphlets were bluntly truthful, logical, and fearless.

The introduction by Jacqueline Royster was a must-read as well, giving context for Wells' editorials and explaining why her writings were and ARE so significant. For anyone who would like a clear look into the lives of blacks at the turn of the century, or learn about a woman and movement that has been swept aside, this collection of I was absolutely blown away by how brave, intelligent, and persuasive Ida B. For anyone who would like a clear look into the lives of blacks at the turn of the century, or learn about a woman and movement that has been swept aside, this collection of essays and pamphlets are for you.

Sep 25, Morgan rated it liked it Shelves: I read the first half really closely, then recently skimmed through the last half.

Navigation menu

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, (Bedford Series in History and Culture) Second Edition5/5(1).

Privacy FAQs

Southern Horrors and Other Writings has ratings and 17 reviews. Mia (Parentheses Enthusiast) said: Because Ida B. Wells was amazing, and because I ju /5.

About Our Ads

Full text of "Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases" See other formats The Project Gutenberg EBook of Southern Horrors, by Ida B. Wells-Barnett This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. Southern Horrors and Other Writings essaysWhat is mob violence? Well, nowadays, mob violence differs in comparison to mob violence in the nineteenth century. In the years following the Civil War, there was a lot of mistreatment of African Americans. Ida B. Wells, a young African American journal.

Cookie Info

Southern horrors and other writings: the anti-lynching campaign of Ida B. Wells, /. Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, / Edition 2 Ida B. Wells was an African American woman who achieved national and international fame as a journalist, public speaker, and community activist at the turn of the twentieth dommonet.tk: $