Lynching and Women: Ida B. Wells

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Lynching and Women: Ida B. Wells

Emancipated blacks, after the Civil War, continued to live in fear of lynching, a practice of vigilantism that was often based on false accusations. Lynching was not only a way for southern white men to exert racist “justice,” it was also a means of keeping women, white and black, under the control of a violent white male ideology. In response to the injustices of lynching, the anti-lynching movement was established—a campaign in which women played a key role. Ida B. Wells, a black teacher and journalist was at the forefront and early development of this movement. In 1892 Wells was one of the first news reporters to bring the truths of lynching to proper media attention. Her first articles appeared in The Free Speech and Headlight, a Memphis newspaper that she co-edited. She urged the black townspeople of Memphis to move west and to resist the coercive violence of lynching. [1] Her early articles were collected in Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, a widely distributed pamphlet that exposed the innocence of many victims of lynching and attacked the leaders of white southern communities for allowing such atrocities. [2] In 1895 Wells published a larger investigative report, A Red Record, which exposed how false or contrived accusations of rape accompanied less than one third of the cases documented around 1892. [3] The statistics and literature of A Red Record denounced the dominant white male ideology behind lynching – the thought that white womanhood was in need of protection against black men. Wells challenged this notion as a concealed racist agenda that functioned to keep white men in power over blacks as well as white women. Jacqueline Jones Royster documents the...

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[3] Tabulating the statistics for lynchings in 1893, [in A Red Record] Wells

demonstrated that less than a third of the victims were even accused of rape or

attempted rape.


[4] Royster. Southern Horrors and Other Writings (30).

[5] Brown states, “Southern white men [had a compelling urge] to avenge even a hint of

impropriety that encroached on their ownership of white women’s virtue” (21).

[6] From Royster’s explanation of white men’s justification for lynching (32).

[7] Women in History. <>

[8] From George Washington University’s webpage on Anna Julia Cooper, under the “Social

Activism” section. <>

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how ida b. wells, a black teacher and journalist, was at the forefront and early development of the anti-lynching movement.
  • Explains dasher-alston, robin m., voices from the gaps, women writers of color: pauline hopkins.
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