Women’s History Month: Ida B. Wells-Barnett

“The more I studied the situation, the more I was convinced that the Southerner had never gotten over his resentment that the Negro was no longer his plaything, his servant, and his source of income. The federal laws for Negro protection passed during Reconstruction times had been made a mockery by the white South where it had not secured their repeal. This same white South had secured political control of its several states and as soon as white southerners came into power they began to make playthings of Negro lives and property.” —From Crusade For Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells was an anti-lynching advocate and journalist from Memphis. She asserted the innocence of black men who were lynched for allegedly raping white women and revealed that these accusations were never grounded in actual evidence. Often, white Southerners lynched the most successful and respected members of the community in order to terrorize black folks into submitting to white authority. Additionally, many men accused of rape were engaged in consensual relationships with white women, but white supremacists continued to circulate the narrative that white women needed protection from black rapists. Ida B. Wells took her fight to England in order to shame and pressure the U.S. government to stop ignoring the white terrorism faced by black people in the South.