Against the Tide: Women Reformers in American Society

By Paul A. Cimbala; Randall M. Miller | Go to book overview

law that would remove lynching from local jurisdictions and try lynchers in federal courts, where there was at least a possibility of conviction.

After the Dyer Bill of 1918 encountered the roadblock of states' rights, the NAACP and its congressional allies tried various weaker formulations that punished not lynchers but local authorities who refused to prosecute them. Regardless of the wording, every federal anti-lynching bill from 1918 to 1950 stumbled somewhere along the road to enactment. Since the 1960s, however, the federal government has prosecuted acquitted lynchers for the violation of their victims' civil rights.

After the NAACP launched its anti-lynching crusade, Wells-Barnett continued her own, but at a slower pace. Her major activities were investigations of particular race riots and lynchings. These included a 1909 riot in Cairo, Illinois, and one in East Saint Louis, Illinois, in 1917. In 1919 she returned to the South for the first time since 1892, to investigate a riot in Elaine, Arkansas, during which twenty-five African Americans were killed and for which twelve more were sentenced to death. Wells-Barnett's efforts were instrumental in getting the twelve men released. She continued to denounce injustice in speeches and print.

Lynching had been Wells-Barnett's primary concern, but not her only one. Following the Springfield riot, she was able to raise funds to establish the Negro Fellowship League in 1910. It served the purposes of a settlement house for black men in Chicago. She also was active in the woman's suffrage movement and in 1913 founded the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago. That year she desegregated a suffrage march in Washington, D.C., by slipping into the Illinois delegation at the last moment. In addition, from 1913 to 1916 Wells-Barnett served as an adult probation officer in Chicago.

Always busy, Wells-Barnett participated in many organizations, including the Republican party. In the three years prior to her death, she began her autobiography and ran for the state senate. On 25 March 1931 death finally silenced her angry voice--a feat no other force could accomplish. That voice had forced white America to confront the myths that excused lynching. With the ugly realities of mob violence laid bare, white voices from all regions joined the black cries for justice. Less than five months before the death of Wells-Barnett, a group of white women met in Atlanta and listened to one of their own refute the link between rape and lynching. Almost four decades after Wells spoke out, Jessie Daniel Ames echoed her words and kept her message alive.


NOTES
1.
Ida B. Wells, Crusade for Justice, edited by Alfreda M. Duster ( Chicago, 1970), 64.
2.
Ida B. Wells, Southern Horrors, repr. in Trudier Harris, ed., Selected Works of Ida B. Wells-Barnett ( New York, 1991), 35.

-110-

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Against the Tide: Women Reformers in American Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Catharine Beecher and Domestic Relations 1
  • Notes 16
  • Bibliography 17
  • Mary Ann Shadd Cary and Black Abolitionism 19
  • Notes 38
  • Bibliography 40
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Woman's Rights Movement 41
  • Notes 51
  • Bibliography 53
  • Dorothea Dix and Mental Health Reform 55
  • Notes 69
  • Bibliography 71
  • Frances Willard and Temperance 73
  • Notes 82
  • Bibliography 83
  • Jane Addams and the Settlement House Movement 85
  • Notes 97
  • Bibliography 98
  • Ida Wells-Barnett and the African-American Anti-Lynching Campaign 99
  • Notes 110
  • Bibliography 111
  • Jessie Daniel Ames and the White Women's Anti- Lynching Campaign 113
  • Notes 123
  • Bibliography 123
  • Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement 125
  • Notes 136
  • Bibliography 137
  • Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement 139
  • Notes 151
  • Bibliography 152
  • Betty Friedan and the National Organization for Women 153
  • Notes 164
  • Bibliography 165
  • Index 167
  • About the Editors and Contributors 171
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