Ida B. Wells was a woman dedicated to a cause, a cause to prevent hundreds of thousands of people from being murdered by lynching. Lynching is defined as to take the law into its own hands and kill someone in punishment for a crime or a presumed crime. Ida B. Wells’ back round made her a logical spokesperson against lynching. She drew on many experiences throughout her life to aid in her crusade. Her position as a black woman, however, affected her credibility both in and out of America in a few different ways.
Her parents nurtured the background of this crusader to make her a great spokesperson. She also held positions throughout her life that allowed her to learn a lot about lynching. She was fueled by her natural drive to search for the truth.
Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Her father, James Wells, was a carpenter and her mother was a cook. After the Civil War her parents became politically active. Her father was known as ‘race’; man, a term given to African Americans involved in the leadership of the community. He was a local businessman, a mason, and a member of the Board of Trustees of Shaw University. Both parents provided Ida with strong role models. They worked hard and held places of respect in the community as forward-looking people. James and Elizabeth (mother) Wells instilled their daughter a keen sense of duty to God, family, and community.
Ida’s background was strengthened when she became part owner, editor, and writer for a weekly paper, The Free Speech. This paper based in Memphis, Tennessee allowed Ida to learn, by research, the details of lynching. Her energetic campaign for truth and justice gave her a lot of attention to fuel her crusade. All these factors support the fact that her background made her an ample spokes person for the anti-lynching campaign. Adding to her credibility, personal experiences also gave her more of a drive to continue her crusade.
She became a leading community activist through a sequence of events. In 1884 Ida was riding a train in a first class car, when she was asked to move to the smoking car. When she refused, two conductors tried to physically move her. She instead got off the train and filed a discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was initially won, but the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the verdict. After the train incident, in 1889, Ida went to The Free Speech paper; this is where her most promising worked developed. In 1892, three of her friends were brutally killed during a lynching. This one particular event opened the eyes of Wells and prompted her to write some of her most controversial works yet. However this type of writing got the Free Speech office ransacked and destroyed. The other owner of the Free Speech barely escaped with his life, but he carried the message that if Ida were to show her face ever again in Tennessee she would be killed. Now with all this ammunition based on personal experience, even as an African American woman, she had gained credibility to be able to speak with authority.
As Ida B. Wells was going through this, it was at the same time that all woman, black and white, were experiencing suffrage. There was a striking similarity between slavery and woman oppression. The bottom line was that women had no authority. An example of this is that even if a woman worked outside the home, all her earnings would legally go to the head of the household. However, Wells emerged as one of the best known of these ‘new’; women that chose to speak out. People were beginning to listen to these accusations of unlawful lynching, but more impressive was the fact that non-Americans were starting to listen.
These non-Americans interests were peaked because the United States, as a world power, tried to silence all issues such as lynching and mob violence. Now, these issues were coming to light, writers from other countries contacted Ida. Wells received an invitation from Isabella Fyvie Mayo, a Scottish writer, to come speak about lynching in Great Britain. This was a great opportunity to bring British support back to the U.S.
In conclusion, Ida B. Wells, because of her background, proved to be a great representative against lynching. Her parents had installed a lot of exceptional qualities that she helped her in her crusade. Also, based on her personal experiences, she had gained strength. Finally, even as an African American woman, her credibility was impressive among both African Americans and non-Americans.