Ida B. Wells

Ida B. WellsIt?s a common misconception that actions speak louder than words. The press, a powerful medium of communication, persuades and impacts people as efficiently or more than actions. After reading Ida B. Wells " Southern Horrors and Other Writings," one sees the effect that her words had on shaping our country during the pivotal time of reconstruction. Wells came into the world as a slave on July 16, 1862, in Hole Springs, Mississippi and left as an inspiration to equality. Slavery no longer existed within the south. African Americans were supposed to be equal citizens, but they faced one of the cruelest practices any race has ever faced. Lynching and mob violence came into practice by white southerners after slavery had ended. "The lynching of slaves was rare, first and foremost because it would result in a loss of ?property? and profit. Obviously it is more profitable to sell salved than to kill them (Wells p.10)." With this attitude not instilled in white southerners? times were scary for African Americans. When three of Well?s friends were lynched she had seen enough. She picked up her pen and began to show the world the true southern horrors that she and her people faced everyday.
There is no justification for what the white southerners did to African Americans, but they tried to make a case of their criminal actions. The main justification for mob violence and lynching was to protect white women?s virtue. If they had any suspicion to believe that an African American was even with a white woman they wouldn?t hesitate to lynch them or carry out violent mob action against them. The white press in the ?Evening Scimitar,? a paper in Memphis, gives this excuse for the lynch law. ?Aside from the violation of white women by negroes, which is the outcropping of a bestial perversion of instinct, the chief cause of trouble between the races in the South is the Negro?s lack of manners (Wells p.63).? Wells did not accept those kinds of excuses and wanted the world to see what was really going on in the South. She knew the southerners were using their women as an excuse to murder and intimidate a race. ?Lynching was not simply a spontaneous punishment for crimes but an act of terror perpetrated against a race of people in order to maintain power and control. She began to see the ritualized murders were acts of mob violence and intimidation designed to retard the progress of African Americans in their efforts to participate more fully in social, political, and economical life (Wells p.3).?
Wells knew that if change was to happen she had to hit America at her heart so she went for the press. "In a ?Red Record? she states that the first step was to tell the world the facts: ?When the Christian world knows the alarming growth and extent of outlawry in our land, some means will be found to stop it (Wells p.27).? Wells wanted everyone to see what was going on in the south and as a journalist she had the perfect opportunity to do so. She was a writer in a newspaper and also she published pamphlets informing America and the world about lynching. Her appeals extended past America when she made speaking tours to Europe where she told of the cruelties her people faced living in America. "The political and economical leadership of the Untied States wanted the country to be perceives as respectable, as major players on the world scene, not as barbaric ?cousins? across the sea who demonstrated all the evils of imperialism Wells p.36)." She had accomplished her goal letting the horrors of the south known to the entire world but it didn?t stop the violence.
Wells encouraged African Americans to take action in her campaign. One of the first things she did was to start a boycott of the train in Memphis. ?Wells brought the horror of lynching to a national and international audience and mobilized other African American women to undertake social action under the auspices of the National Association of Colored Women (Wells p.1).? The fact that she was a black woman infuriated the southerners. Wells was threatened and forced to live in exile from her home in Memphis after she wrote her first article in the Free Speech. ?She insisted that the myth of black attacks on white southerner womanhood masked the reality that mob violence had more to do with economics and the shifting social structure of the South than with rape (Wells p.14).? If a white woman were to say or write something like this she would most likely not be a married woman. Women were expected to go along with what men believed and weren?t really supposed to worry about things outside of the family.
At the end of Wells life lynching was still in practice. Although she was not able to end lynching her objective to spread the word of the horrors of the south was achieved. She was heard on Europe and all of America knew who she was by the time when she had died in Chicago March 25, 1931. The fact that an African American woman could demonstrate herself in the matter she did was an eye opener for America and the first time it had been seen. She stated a fight for equality that is still continued today and is an American hero for her work.

Ida B. Wells 8.6 of 10 on the basis of 1426 Review.