Ida B. Wells

In pamphlet “Southern horrors” (1895) Ida Wells-Barnett wrote, that not all crimes committed by whites over the past thirty years, became public, but it is clear that during these years more than ten thousand blacks were killed in cold blood, hanged without a lawful sentence or trial. Ida B. Wells, called “the Queen of the Black Race” or “the Princess of the Press”, is, first of all, known for her anti-lynching campaign, being a fearless leader and fighter for the rights of Afro-Americans and women, for equality, justice and democracy in general.

Journalist and activist Ida Wells conducted a study of lynching cases and published results in newspapers. She was first, who stated that 70% out of 728 blacks were put to death by the crowd for minor offenses. Being a newspaper journalist and editor leading the anti-lynching campaign in the United States, Ida Wells had a chance to issue her biting articles and pamphlets (Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, A Red Record, Mob Rule in New Orleans, Race Question and Woman Question series), aiming at stressing the importance of the lynching problem and inacceptability of vigilantism, at bringing attention of Northern and Southern readers to the “crime against humanity”.

Moreover, Ida Wells was known as a brilliant speaker, who managed to turn the attention of the major layers of the society and find supporters among them. So, one of the key features of Wells’ effective speech-making was her talent to adapt to different social groups by changing argument part, evidence or emphasis. Her articles and inspired speeches were surely targeted at the Afro-American population, but among write audience Ida Wells also aimed at gaining the support of women, middle and upper class.

Higher authorities and upper classes were blamed in her speeches for just allowing lynching atrocities happen. White women were mostly affected by the argument of danger. However, the greatest success was achieved in influencing Northern middle-class majority through manipulating with its fear of the male power decline. Thus, Wells concentrated at the main social stereotypes (white women are pure and need protection, black women are immoral, Afro-American men cannot be trusted), challenging them as concealed racist notions established in order to maintain the power of white men.

The integrated approach of Ida Wells was designed for achieving an individual kind of persuasive effect inside different audiences. This individual impact contributed much to the spreading of information from one social group to another, from one person to the rest of his environment, which made it possible to involve more people, challenging them to join Wells’ anti-lynching campaign.

Ida Wells became one of NAACP founders (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and the inspirer of the Association of Southern Women to Prevent Lynching, organizations which started huge campaigns against mob violence, lynching and vigilantism. They also aimed at changing the ideals of gender and race control.

Thus, Wells’ activity promoted the development international movements for civil rights and world stop-terror campaigns.

Ida Wells wasn’t always heard because of being Afro-American and because of being woman, but she was never afraid of being unpopular or criticized. Her campaign made considerable steps to bring the attention of society and media and organize resistance to violence. This all corresponded to her short, but meaningful expression: “One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap”.

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