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On Lynchings (Classics in Black Studies) Paperback – April 1, 2002

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Paperback, April 1, 2002
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Editorial Reviews


"could serve as text in classes of history and race relations...highly recommended for all academic and larger library collections." -- Counterpoise

About the Author

IDA BELL WELLS-BARNETT was born July 16, 1862, in Holly Springs, Mississippi, the daughter of slaves. She was educated at Rust University, a freedmen's school in Holly Springs. After the death of her parents and one of her siblings in a yellow fever epidemic, she began teaching in a country school at age sixteen. She continued to teach after moving to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1884 and attended Fisk University in Nashville during several summer sessions.

In 1884 Wells sued the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad for having been forcibly removed from her seat after she had refused to move to the "colored only" car. Although she won her case in the local circuit court, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the decision in 1887, in defiance of the 1875 Civil Rights Act that prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, creed, or color in theaters, hotels, transports, and other public accommodations.

Using the pen name "Iola," Ida B. Wells wrote newspaper articles in 1891 that were critical of the education available to African American children. When her teaching contract was not renewed, she turned to journalism, buying an interest in the African American weekly "Memphis Free Speech."

In 1892 three of her friends, owners of the People's Grocery Company, fought back when a white mob attacked their store. One of the attackers was shot. The owners were arrested, but a lynch mob broke into the jail, dragged the owners away, and murdered all three. Wells began an editorial campaign against lynching that led to the ransacking of her newspaper's office. She continued her antilynching crusade by moving to New York where she worked as a staff writer for the African American newspaper "New York Age," published the pamphlet "Southern Horrors" (1892), and lectured and organized antilynching societies, speaking in Northern U.S. cities and in Britain.

Wells moved to Chicago where she married Ferdinand L. Barnett, a lawyer and editor. They had four children. She contributed to her husband's newspaper, the "Chicago Conservator", and to other local journals; published a detailed look at lynching in the pamphlets "A Red Record" (1895) and "Mob Rule in New Orleans" (1900); and was active in organizing African American women to confront issues from lynching to universal suffrage.

From 1898 to 1902 Wells-Barnett served as secretary of the National Afro-American Council, and in 1910 she founded and served as first president of the Negro Fellowship League, which aided newly arrived migrants from the South. From 1913 to 1916 she served as a probation officer of the Chicago municipal court and organized legal aid for the victims of the 1918 Race Riots. She was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, but was opposed to the accommodationist strategies of Booker T. Washington.

Wells-Barnett died March 25, 1931, in Chicago. Her autobiography, CRUSADE FOR JUSTICE, was published posthumously in 1970. In honor of her work in Chicago, the city named a housing project after her.


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Product Details

  • Series: Classics in Black Studies
  • Paperback: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Humanity Books (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591020085
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591020080
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Anna on May 7, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is, in my opinion, the single best book on the Jim Crow lynching period. It is so meaty and articulate. Ida B. Wells was really smart and analytical, as well as passionate about human rights. Her work reads like an academic study, in terms of evidence and analysis, but she was a journalist. She showed great moral and physical courage.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book should be read and studied in every school as well have in the home to teach our children. We never forget the past.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By F. I. Lowe Perry on June 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is another book ÄBOUT TIME!" The truth to be known about this heroic lady, and how times haven't changed. This is a book that should be required reading in schools.
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