Black History Month: Ida B Wells


Ida B Wells was a Black journalist, suffragette and activist.

In 1889, three friends of hers were killed by a lynch mob. This led Wells to begin investigating lynching from a sociological perspective, publishing her work in a pamphlet titled Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases. Wells concluded that Southerners often cited “rape” or sexual harassment of white women in an attempt to justify lynchings designed to impede Black economic progress. Wells recommended Black folk take up arms to defend against lynchings.

The lesson this teaches and which every Afro-American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honour in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great a risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life. The more the Afro-American yields and cringes and begs, the more he has to do so, the more he is insulted, outraged and lynched.

This led an angry mob of white people to burn down the Free Speech and Headlight, a newspaper she co-owned and edited.

Three years later Wells published another pamphlet, The Red Record which went into further detail, describing the various excuses used for lynching throughout different eras. She discussed in detail the ways whites routinely used violence to control the black population, concluding that logic and reason would not be successful in ending lynching in America, and armed resistance may be the only option.


Further Reading:

Southern Horrors: Lynch Law In All Its Phases


The Red Record


The Fortune of Wells: Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s Use of T. Thomas Fortune’s Philosophy of Social Agitation as a Prolegomenon to Militant Civil Rights Activism

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