Lessons in Black History – IDA B. WELLS

Ida B. Wells—Born in Mississippi just before the Emancipation Proclamation, Ida B. Wells would go on to become one of the foremost advocates for equal rights, a pioneer of the modern civil rights movement, and a tenacious anti-lynching activist. Orphaned at the age of 16, Wells took it upon herself to raise and care for her siblings, and still managed to get an education, leading to careers as a teacher and journalist. Wells began crusading for the rights of others at an early age, and her list of accomplishments is impressive. By the 1890s she was one of the most prominent black leaders in America, as well as a highly regarded advocate for women’s rights. Wells founded the National Association of Colored Women in 1896, as well as the National Afro-American Council, which would go on to become the NAACP. Wells is also known for her anti-lynching campaign, and her militancy when it came to defending against white attackers. Between 1892 and 1894 she wrote and published Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and A Red Record, both of which dealt with lynching. Wells asserted that lynching was primarily a response to the economic progress of blacks, which threatened the white way of life and defied notions of black inferiority. In Southern Horrors she wrote of how to respond to the threat of lynching by white people: “The lesson this teaches and which every Afro-American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great a risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life. The more the Afro-American yields and cringes and begs, the more he has to do so, the more he is insulted, outraged and lynched.”

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