The history of the fight against inequality and discrimination in the United States has many manifestations and people who dedicated their lives to this struggle. Ida B. Wells was one of the historical figures as her active work against discrimination and lynching led to changes in US legislation. The life stories of this woman are an example for many people who want to live in a just and equal world. Hence, although Ida B. Wells did not achieve the abolition of lynching during her lifetime; she made significant contributions to this process through her struggles, journalistic work, and the creation of a political organization.
Wells’ main contribution to the anti-lynching movement was to draw attention to the issue through her articles and the political activism of the organization. However, one of Wells’s main influences was her personal example of fighting inequality. This struggle manifests itself in her refusal to leave the first-class sit in the train and her constant conflicts with employees and authorities because of her political views (). Another example is that Wells wrote a personal letter to the President opposing the killing of a postmaster’s in 1898 (“Killing the Messenger”, n.d.). These actions made people believe her words and became inspired, and probably became one of the motives for people joining her protests and struggle.
For this reason, Wells manages to created political organizations that continued her work after her death and secured a federal ban on lynching. These organizations were the National Association of Colored Women and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that Wells co-founded (Masur, 2018). Consequently, Wells influenced the creation of a large-scale political movement that continued to organize protests and actions and demand from the government the abolition of lynching, and activist even moved it to consideration by the government many times (Masur, 2018). However, the law recognizing lynching by federal crime was passed only in 2018 (Masur, 2018). Nevertheless, Wells was one of the first to start the political struggle and brought it to the national level.
At the same time, journalism was the primary tool that gave Wells fame and threats. The journalist wrote a provocative article in 1892 in which she stated that lynching was an instrument and basis for racial subordination but not a measure of justice, and also debunked the myth of the rape of white women by black men. Wells (1892) wrote, “it is in a fair way to stamp us a race of rapists and desperadoes.” A year later, this thesis is also repeated in the article “Lynch Law in All its Phases”, in which the author describes numerous cases of lynching and says that no one believes the stories of rape in their land anymore (Wells, 1893). The journalist also published other provocative articles that drew the attention of the public and government to the problem of lynching, which made it impossible to ignore it further.
Therefore, the primary influence of Ida B. Wells on lynching laws and regulations was to draw attention to the problem and start a political struggle against it. The means to achieve these goals were journalism, active political work, and the personal example of a courageous woman, which became the basis for further changes. Consequently, although Ida B. Wells did not change the lynching laws during her lifetime, her work was the beginning of the fight against this unjust and brutal system.
Masur, L.P. (2018). Why it took a century to pass an anti-lynching law. The Washington Post. Web.
Wells, I.B. (1893). Lynch law in all its phases (address at Tremont Temple in the Boston Monday Lectureship) [Photocopy]. Web.
Wells, I.B. (1892). Southern horrors: Lynch law in all its phases [EBook #14975]. The Project Gutenberg EBook.
Ida B. Wells (2020). Web.