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Lynching and Women: Ida B. Wells Essay

Decent Essays
Lynching and Women: Ida B. Wells

Emancipated blacks, after the Civil War, continued to live in fear of lynching, a practice of vigilantism that was often based on false accusations. Lynching was not only a way for southern white men to exert racist “justice,” it was also a means of keeping women, white and black, under the control of a violent white male ideology. In response to the injustices of lynching, the anti-lynching movement was established—a campaign in which women played a key role. Ida B. Wells, a black teacher and journalist was at the forefront and early development of this movement. In 1892 Wells was one of the first news reporters to bring the truths of lynching to proper media attention. Her first articles
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They needed and deserved protection. African American women were wanton, licentious, promiscuous […] African American men were lustful beasts who could not be trusted in the company of ‘good’ women, white women. [4]

According to the stereotypes exposed by Wells, white men understood the rape of a white woman by a black man to be an insult to their manhood [5] , whereas the rape of a black woman by a white man could not be a “punishable crime” because of her status as a “bad woman.” The racial ideology at the root of such thinking allowed white men to define lynching not as terrorism or race and gender control, but as the right action to avenge their manhood. [6] Through her reports, Wells challenged other women as well as men to join the anti-lynching campaign. The Association of Southern Women to Prevent Lynching was a subsequent group of white women that was established in the 1930s as a result of the events documented in A Red Record. Wells is also credited as one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, an organization that began a widespread campaign against lynching and mob violence around 1910 and is the oldest civil rights organization in the United States. [7]

Wells’ resistance to white male ideology influenced other leading black women of the time, such as Anna Julia Cooper, who was instrumental in organizing women to resist race and gender
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