Ida B. Wells-Barnett and American Reform, 1880-1930

By Patricia A. Schechter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE

Talking through Tears

n 1886, while living in Memphis, Tennessee, a twenty- four-year-old Ida B. Wells copied an incident into her diary, "for fear I will not remember it when I write my I`novel.' ” She noted that a "colored girl” was convicted of assault and sentenced in a local court after getting "the best of a fight” with a white girl. The brawl capped a series of confrontations in which the white girl had refused to "give half of the walk” when the two passed daily on a "wooded path up the country. ” At one point, the white girl's brother also came along to the woods and "abused” the colored girl. When again attacked on the next day, the colored girl successfully defended herself. In court, however, the judge "carried [the sentence] to the utmost of his power by giving her 11 mos. 29 days & 1/2 in the workhouse!” 1 The case outraged Wells and highlighted the dilemmas of resistance for black women. If self-possession and self-defense had criminal consequences, writing a "novel” about it seemed to invite disregard, misunderstanding, or even punishment. 2 Wells never wrote her novel, but she never forgot the lessons of the colored girl on the wooded path. The issues of racial violence, bias in the legal system, and the dilemmas of resistance for black women would be central to her work against lynching for the next four decades. Musing in a later diary

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Ida B. Wells-Barnett and American Reform, 1880-1930
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Ida B. Wells-Barnett and American Reform, 1880-1930 *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations *
  • Preface *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Introduction *
  • Chapter One - Talking Through Tears *
  • Chapter Two - Coming of Age in Memphis *
  • Chapter Three - The Body in Question *
  • Chapter Four - Progress Against Itself *
  • Chapter Five - Settlements, Suffrage, Setbacks *
  • Chapter Six - For Women, of Women, by Women *
  • Conclusion *
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
  • Gender and American Culture *
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