Against the Tide: Women Reformers in American Society

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

Ida Wells-Barnett and the African-American Anti-Lynching Campaign

LINDA O. MCMURRY

The lynchings of Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Will Stewart in March 1892 were not significant for their rarity--that year at least 158 other African Americans were killed by angry mobs for alleged offenses against white society. The location of the lynchings in Memphis, Tennessee, was also not remarkable; seventeen other black Tennesseans were lynched that year and forty-six African Americans had been killed in an 1866 race riot in Memphis. The three deaths assumed a special importance mostly because of their impact on the young journalist, Ida B. Wells. She knew all three men and was godmother to Moss's daughter. Outraged by the murder of her friends, Wells mobilized her considerable talents and energies to battle the evil of mob violence. Thus began the perfect marriage of an individual and a cause.

Born to slave parents on 16 July 1862, in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Wells was the eldest of seven children. In 1878 her parents, James Wells and Lizzie Bell, and one sibling died in a yellow fever epidemic. Wells returned from Shaw (later Rust) University and rejected plans to divide the remaining children among friends and relatives. Instead, at the age of sixteen, she assumed responsibility for her brothers and sisters and became head of the household. She began teaching and eventually moved to Memphis, where she participated in the rich cultural life of the black elite. There she might have led a conventional life but for her temperament and a series of events.

The first event occurred on 4 May 1884, when a conductor asked Wells to leave the ladies' car of a train. She refused, then bit him on the hand when he sought to remove her forcibly, and finally sued the railroad. She won the suit, lost it on appeal, and launched her career as a journalist and a firebrand. Wells became a partner and editor of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight in 1889. She also taught until 1891, when she was dismissed after criticizing the

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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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