The history of the US is the history of the ongoing struggle between the dominant white Americans and African Americans who were historically oppressed and dominated, but, nevertheless, they always attempted to rise and become equal citizens of the US. In this heroic struggle, the role of Ida B. Wells can hardly be underestimated since she researched in details the problem of lynching in the US in the 1890s, which she described in details raising the public against inhuman practices conducted by dominant white majority. Her writings “Southern Horror”¯ fully reveal the essence of the problem of lynching, its inhuman nature, causes and effects on racial relationships in the US.
Ida B. Wells’ writings were extremely challenging, taking into consideration the historical context in which she created her works. In the time, when lynching was a norm, the author needed a lot of courage to write openly and criticize publicly lynching as a widely spread problem that affected many African Americans (Gere & Robbins, 1996). Moreover, Ida B. Wells could be and was a subject to attacks of white racist and the risk of being lynched was very high. Nevertheless, she wrote about lynching in South and drew the public attention to this problem. This is why her writings are so important since the public remained indifferent to lynching as long as people stayed unaware of the scope of the problem uncovered by Ida B. Wells.
Obviously, the major purpose of her writings is to draw the public attention to the problem of lynching and stop lynching in the US. At the same time, the author attempts to understand reasons and causes of lynching since, through understanding of reasons of the problem, Ida B. Wells attempted to find its solution.
The author was conscious of consistent difference between the white Americans whom she addressed her writings to. To put it more precisely, she addressed to white Americans, who were aware of threats and injustice African Americans suffered in the US. In addition, the author attempted to engage those white Americans, who were ignorant or indifferent to the problem of lynching and the position of African Americans in the US. Finally, she apparently attempted to change the mind of white racists, because her writings revealed the injustice and cruelty of racist practices in the US. Ida B. Wells addresses all the three audience groups with the main purpose to put the end to lynching and discrimination of African Americans. In such a way, she could consolidate the American society and stimulate people unite their efforts to meet the purpose defined by Wells’ writings.
At the same time, the author goes further in her writings and she attempts to understand reasons for lynching. She reveals the essence of lynching and its reasons. In this respect, she stresses that the major reason for lynching was not only sheer racism, but also and mainly black economic progress, which made African Americans economically competitive with white Americans (Wells, 1996). Another important reason was cultural traditions and black inferiority (Wells, 1996) contrasted to white superiority that created favorable conditions for emergence of racism and lynching.
Obviously, Ida B. Wells’ articles were effective because they disturbed the mind and soul of any reader. Moreover, they provoked the public debate over the problem of lynching raised in her articles. At the same time, I believe that it was really important to make lynching a subject of the public debate since it is only the public that could stop lynching through marginalization of those who supported lynching.