tv Sarah Silkey Black Woman Reformer CSPAN May 21, 2022 3:00pm-4:16pm EDT
good evening, everyone and welcome to tonight's great lives. lecture on the life of black female journalist and early l righctivist, ida b wells. just like our program last tuesday on emmett till constitutes part of the university's celebration of black history month. tonight's program is sponsored. by the gemini three group and we're most grateful to its present and ceo linda, blakemore. for her firms generous and ongoing support of this series. now speak of this evening is dr. sarah selke professor and chair
of the history department at lycoming college in pennsylvania. growing up in minnesota. she attended carlton college a small liberal arts school there where she earned her ba in american studies. there was there that she developed an interest in the role of race and racial tensions in american society and interest that she pursued at the university of east anglia where she received her ma and phd degrees. by conducting graduate work in britain. she was able to investigate american history through a transnational lens rather than viewing it from a purely american perspective. this interest led to teaching courses examining the intellectual social and cultural history of modern america. as well as african american history and the history of africa. it also resulted in the publication of her first book
titled black woman reformer. i to be wells lynching and transatlantic activism, which is the basis of her talk tonight. that book incidentally is available for purchase and signing in the foyer following the of our program tonight. dr. selch has also published essays on responses to wells's campaign in great britain and the american south as well as the evolution of scholarly interpretations of lynching. it's my pleasure to welcome to the great lives podium dr. sarah selfie. thank you, bill. and thank you for everyone who is here this evening both in person and on the live stream. i'd like to thank the gemini three group for their generous sponsorship of tonight's lecture. it is a delight to be able to be here today. on may 4th. 2020 ida b. wells was awarded the pulitzer
prize for her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against african americans during the era of lynching. nearly forgotten at the time of her death in 1931. the importance of wells's groundbreaking journalism and civil rights campaigns have received increasing public recognition over the past few years. just this past summer after years of fundraising and organizing monuments to wells were unveiled in memphis and chicago her two adopted homes. choosing a life of activism was not easy particularly as a black woman in the 19th century wells made many sacrifices moving to escape persecution was standing character attacks struggling to navigate expectations for appropriate feminine behavior and facing criticism for continuing her activism as a wife and mother. despite the many obstacles. she faced whilst navigated the world with dignity and an unflinching commitment to justice. throughout her career as a journalist and civil rights
activist while strobe to shine the light of truth on the injustice's faced by the black community the seeds. she planted continued to bear fruit today, but much of that success took place after her lifetime. as an early muckraker her investigative journalism frequently attracted the ire of those who benefited from the unjust systems. she exposed her campaign against lynching generated unprecedented and national and international scrutiny. she inspired people to question the excuses used to justify mob violence and her work continues to inform our understanding of racist violence today. i'm grateful to have this opportunity to celebrate her lifetime of dedicated activism with you. idabel wells was born to enslave parents amid the upheaval to civil war on july 16 1862 in holly springs, mississippi. her father. james was a son of an enslaved woman named peggy and her enslaver morgan wells a white plantation owner from hickory flats. having no children by his wife
morgan favored jim an apprentist him as a carpenter with spies bowling a white architect and builder from holly springs a growing town located approximately 20 miles to the west. there jim metis future wife elizabeth warrenton a a young cook in bowling's household. the need for skilled carpenters to repair the destruction of the civil war and jim's willingness to help his neighbors both black and white during times of crisis made him a valued member of the holly springs community jim and lizzie wells embraced the new opportunities available to them as american citizens following emancipation together. they taught ida the importance of education respectability and political participation for black progress. white supremacists used intimidation economic reprisals and murder to deter black political participation during reconstruction, but despite these risks jim insisted on exercising his constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. when spiers bowling locked gym out of his carpentry shop for refusing to vote for democratic party candidates.
jim quickly found a new home purchased tools on credit and obtained a new employer. thanks to jim's valuable carpentry skills the growing wells family had enough financial security to adopt middle-class gender roles allowing lizzie and the children to attend a local school established by the freedmen's aid society of the methodist episcopal church. a devout woman lizzie learned how to read the bible and oversaw her children's academic and religious education. as ida later recalled in her autobiography our job was to go to school and learn all we could. in 1878 a yellow fever epidemic devastated the mississippi valley spreading to more than 200 communities across 11 states jim jumped into action tending to the afflicted and helping wherever he could. the courage and selflessness her father demonstrated taught ida to take action when serious problems arose. but tragically both her parents and infant brother died during the epidemic leaving 16 year old ida to provide for her five
surviving brothers and sisters. she quickly decided to lower her skirts and obtain work as a schoolteacher one of the only professions available to young educated educated women at the time. she left holly springs to seek better employment opportunities in memphis, tennessee there she worked her way up from the outline rural districts to a position in the city school system, although the public school teachers were poorly in a regularly paid in the 19th century wells's profession allowed her to enter the social circles of the growing black middle class in memphis this thriving community offered stimulating social and intellectual opportunities. well, it's delighted in attending plays public lectures and church services with a variety of congregations. she also participated in literary societies took allocution lessons and gave dramatic readings at social gatherings. she even tried her hand at writing short stories. she entertained potential suitors in the formal parlor of her boarding house properly chaperoned, of course, but we'll see more interested in drawing
these men into lively political discussions then in marriage, in memphis wells joined a generation of young black men and women who aspired to professional careers and successful lives as full citizens in the decades after reconstruction. born and raised outside the rigid social structure of slavery. they expected access to the rights and privileges associated with social and economic success in american society. this included the right to be considered ladies and gentlemen. these terms don't hold the same significance in society today, but a century ago to be accepted as a lady or a gentleman meant achieving middle-class respectability and that recognition came with social privileges and legal protections that were especially important for black women. as long as they conform to expected behavior codes and dressed respectively middle-class ladies were assumed to be innocent honorable and delicate chivalry demanded that ladies should be protected from
the abuses and insults commonly endured by women of lower social and economic status. black women had been systematically denied such chivalrous protections in the united states for more than two centuries white supremacists popularized racist stereotypes such as the seductive jezebel to justify the sexual exploitation and assault of enslaved black women. portraying black women as naturally promiscuous excused white men's transgressions and undermined free black women's class claims to respectability. in young aida's moral education lizzie wells had instilled middle class victorian values and gender roles to combat this painful legacy. the attempt of southern state legislatures to pass regal segregation laws threatened to undermine the progress made by wells' freedom generation to achieve respectable middle-class status and participate fully in american society. by the end of reconstruction in 1877 the federal government had grown reluctant to enforce the 14th amendments equal protection
clause prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race. in the early 1880s several states began testing the possibility of establishing a legal system of racial segregation. public transportation became the first target with states passing what became known as separate car laws whilst took her first steps into journalism by writing about her experiences challenging these early segregation laws. in the 19th century passenger railroads were routinely segregated on the basis of class and gender the first class ladies car offered a safer more refined travel experience. in addition to cushion shopper upholstery and separate toilets for men and female passengers no small consideration on swaying carriages the first class car shielded female passengers from the drinking smoking swearing and lewd conduct a male passengers that was often tolerated in the second class smoking car. only well-mannered gentlemen were allowed to ride in the first class lady's car. these rules established a
gendered and class defined protected space the extended the domestic sphere into public transportation allowing ladies to travel and maintain their respectability. unwilling to increase operating costs by running by running twice as many cars to accommodate both first and second class white and black passengers most railroads designated portions of smoking cars as first class accommodations for black writers. so like many of the segregation statutes that followed separate car laws effectively made it impossible for black ladies and gentlemen to access first class travel accommodations, but enforcement depended upon the whims of conductors and with her lady like appearance wells was able to skirt the regulations for a time. however in 8 september 1883 she was forcibly ejected from the lady's car refusing to move to the smoking car. wells wedged her feet under the seat in front of her and fought off the conductor and two white passengers quite literally tooth
and nail. encouraged by the white onlookers the conductor eventually wrestled wells from her seat dragged her from the carriage and dropped her on the train platform tearing her dress and the process although wells is resistance may have appeared undignified it demonstrated. the high stakes involved in the situation. as a young single professional woman whilst fought for the right to be treated with respect as a lady even if she had to engage in unlady-like behavior while simply could not allow herself to be moved to the second class car. other respectable black women had similarly fought for the recognition as ladies african-american activists married church terrell once used a parasol to fight off a break man who tried to force her into a second-class car. fearing harassment or sexual assault riding alone tarot concluded that anything would be preferable to be in subjected to the immoral atmosphere of the smoking car even death itself. unwilling to accept the humiliation of being dragged from her seed and
unceremoniously dumped on the station platform. well sued the railroad for discrimination. while not a point of law the crucial question underlying wells's case was whether or not a black woman had the right to be considered a lady. in his decision judge pierce recognized wells as a person of lady-like appearance and deportment a school teacher and one who might be expected to object to traveling in the company of rough or or boisterous men smokers or drunkards. to compel a lady to sit in a second-class carriage. he concluded concluded was an act of cruelty. consequently, he awarded well as more than $200 in court costs and damages. whilst began her career in journalism with an account of her court battles published in the living way an african-american religious periodical although her victory was eventually overturned by the tennessee supreme court on appeal her legal battle to be recognized as a lady underscored the importance of resisting codified segregation whenever
and wherever possible and journalism wells had finally found her true calling. journalism provided wells with an outlet for both her intellect and her feisty disposition. she soon established herself in memphis's black literary circles and became a regular contributor to several publications under the pen name iola. in 1889 wells purchased a 1/3 share of the memphis free speech and became co-editor. like many black journalists in the 19th century wells initially kept her day job teaching but she found working with children increasingly less fulfilling and her public criticism of the poor conditions in memphis's segregated schools. eventually led to her dismissal. freed from her teaching career. however, she became determined to make journalism a pain profession and remarkably she succeeded. although there were black owned newspapers during the antebellum period the african-american press flourished alongside the freedom generation. there are more than 200 black owned publications in the united states by the 1890s.
but despite this growth it remained difficult to make journalism a financial success due to the economic instability and high rates of illiteracy in the black community. to combat these challenges wells employed clever tactics to increase subscriptions to the free speech including the newspaper on distinctive pink paper that way even people who were functionally illiterate could pick out her paper from the newsstand and take it home for their children or neighbors to read to them. the black press covered everything from national politics to local gossip and because newspapers frequently commented on or reprinted articles from other publications the black press connected communities across the nation in a shared dialogue. while there were dozens of black female journalists in the 19th century most confined their work to appropriately feminine concerns like social events or household management or moral uplift. wells defied gendered expectations by fearlessly addressing political topics in her writing she wrote for a wide
range of black publications according both male and female readers addressing social and political concerns. this made well as a bit of an oddity within press circles and she leveraged her unique position to gain prominence in the field. dubbed the princess of the press wells as elected the secretary of the national afro-american press association in 1889. she quickly won recognition from her male peers for her work and her free speech editorials were frequently republished in other papers t thomas fortune editor of the new york age praised wells as one of the few of our women who handle a goose quill with diamond point as easily as any man in the newspaper work. she has plenty of nerve and is a sharp as a steel trap. her nerve however would be tested when the problem of racial terrorism came home to memphis. wells is activism had covered a wide range of issues until march 1892 when three black businessmen thomas moss calvin mcdowell and william henry
stewart were lynched in memphis the men owned the people's grocery company a successful store located in a black neighborhood on the outskirts of memphis. the jealousy of a white store owner led to a physical altercation and the arrest of moss mcdowell and stuart for defending their store. white citizens used the incident as an excuse to loot black homes and arrest and beat more than 30 black men. fearing a mob attack on the jail the tennessee rifle is a black militia attempted to guard the prison but their guns were confiscated by white authorities and they were forced to leave. four days after the initial dispute a group of white men entered the jail. the kidnap moss mcdowell and stuart shot them and left their bodies in a field outside the city limits. although city officials claimed it was impossible to identify the lynchers detailed accounts of the mobs actions including the last words of the murdered men appeared in the city's white newspapers. white civic leaders and law enforcement officials were
clearly complicit in these killings. before the murder of her friends wells claimed to have accepted the excuses of southern lynching apologists that mob violence was a necessary expression a public outrage over the rape of white women by black men. but her friends were murdered simply to appease the jealousy of their white business rival. she quicker concluded that lynching was a form of racial terrorism designed to prevent african americans from achieving social political and economic equality with white americans. welsh challenged her personal outrage of the lynching into her editorials and investigative journalism. she gathered statistics on lynching from white newspaper reports to demonstrate that less than 1/3 of all cases of lynchings involved any allegations of sexual offenses. instead black men women and children were targeted for a wide range of perceived offenses including social transgressions such as refusing to show sufficient deference to whites or in some cases for no stated reason at all.
lynching was a powerful tool for enforcing white supremacy. and she didn't stop there. she called for arm self defense claiming that a winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home to provide the protection which the law refuses to give. and she encouraged black residents to use collective action to demand justice. she supported a successful boycott of the memphis street cars and championed migration to states out west that might afford better protection for black citizens. she understood that the only way to force change was to increase the perceived costs of lynching for white citizens. as she wants cynically observed appeals to the white man's pocket had been more effectual than all the appeals ever made to his conscience. wells uncovered evidence to suggest that some lynchings followed revelations of clandestine sexual relationships between white women and black men in other words lynch mobs had transformed consensual relationships into rape to justify the murder of black men
who defied social mores. i may 21st 1892 just before boarding a train for new york wells penned and editorial the propelled her into the national spotlight and changed the course of her life. nobody in this section of the country believes the old threadbare lie that -- men rape white women if southern white men are not careful she warned they will reach themselves and public sentiment will have a reaction a conclusion will then be reached which will be very damaging to the moral reputation of their women. the mere suggestion that any white woman could ever be attracted to a black man incensed local white residents who destroyed her press ran her business partner out of town and threatened to kill as well if she ever returned to the south undeterred she turned this misfortune into an opportunity to continue her campaign against lynching on a broader scale. while simply added her personal testimony to a growing catalog of evidence that the real
motivation for lynching had little to do with black criminality or the protection of women and everything to do with defending white supremacy. will's focused her attention on deconstructing the carefully cultivated narratives crafted by lynching apologists to legitimize murder in the name of community justice. for example judge luke edward lawless had infamously instructed jurors that they could not find anyone responsible for mob violence when deaths resulted from that mysterious metaphysical almost electric frenzy of the mob rather than the work of a small number of individuals. unwilling to prosecute lynchers even in high-profile cases corners inquests routinely ruled that the victims met their deaths at the hands a person's unknown. lynching apologists were frustrated with a legal system the supplanted rough justice with due process. and so mom violence increasingly became an outlet for popular resentment against the modern
criminal justice system. since the end of slavery the lynching for rape narrative had become a powerful tool for defending white supremacy. lynchers claimed that their actions shielded delicate white women from the trauma of testifying against sexual assault in open court and public anxiety about the myth of the black beast. rapist became an effective tool for promoting jim croce segregation laws to restrict the freedoms of both african americans and white women under the guise of chivalry. yet chivalry could not adequately account for the behavior of the mobs as the threats against wells's own life had demonstrated. the lesson was clear african americans had no guarantee of legal protections and black lives held no value were lynching and race prejudice flourished. now exiled from the south wells employed her skills as a public speaker and investigative journalists to become a full-time activist. she became an outspoken opponent of segregation the contact least
system and lynching. she recognized that these powerful systems of oppression work together to threaten black american social economic and political progress. african-american women in new york, boston and washington dc organized women's clubs and gathered to support wells as she gave testimonials about her experiences and her investigation of lynching some of the most prominent black social reformers of the era including victoria earl matthews, josephine, saint pierre ruffin and murray church terrell shared the platform with wells. her speeches and the publication of southern horrors her first expose on lynching captured the attention and british reformers catherine impe and isabella, fibey mayo invited wells to become the spokesperson for a nasant british anti-imperialist organization. the ambitiously titled soc. for the recognition of the brotherhood of man. wells equally sees the opportunity to travel to britain to speak out against the injustices faced by african-americans americans in the united states whilst toured
great britain in 1893 and again in 1894 to build a transatlantic campaign against lynching in the united states a series of high-profile lynching cases had made headlines in the british. press just weeks before impean. mayo's invitation news had broken the shocking lynching of henry smith in paris, texas. as many as 10,000 americans had reportedly gathered to watch smith be tortured and then burned alive. horrified british readers began to question what exactly was going on in the united states and wells was ready to offer them answers. her activism inspired the new generate the remnants of the old abolitionist and freedmen's aid society networks to join a new generation of british social reformers to speak out against american lynching. transnational connections have always been a vital part of the development of american society the export of cotton and wheat to europe dictated the fortunes of farmers throughout the south
and midwest while european americans maintain close intellectual cultural and familial ties with their native lands. industrialization agricultural expansion and urbanization had increased the demands for new immigrants to provide cheap labor, encouraging states and territories to compete with one another to attract workers and invest capital from europe. wells is outspoken attacks against southern lynching culture receives substantial press coverage in both the united states and great britain technological innovations and the extension of women's roles into the public sphere during the mid to late 19th century provided women with unprecedented opportunities to travel and exchange ideas with men and women on both sides of the atlantic whether transmitted through telegraph wire print journalism personal travel or correspondence this movement of ideas back and forth across the atlantic is vital to understanding the world in which wells operated despite the pen name. she adopted while abroad wells was not simply an exile in britain.
by leaving the country she entered a new social framework where she enjoyed considerably more freedom than in the united states. it was not like british society was free of racism by any means but as an american and britain well as existed outside the race class and gender structures of both nations. this allowed her to position herself as respectable black lady reformer and identity that racism and segregation had denied to her back home and with respectability came legitimacy and protections against personal character attacks. in appealing to britain's for support wells followed in the footsteps of groundbreaking african-american whose women who traveled to england before her. wells wrapped herself the legacy of anti-slavery reformers like ellen kraft and sarah parker remnant to reclaim their her own as a lady something that had been denied to her by her race within the united states.
allen crafts feminine qualities became a traveling exhibit during her public appearances in britain despite ellen's bravery and disguising herself as an infirm white man, so that her husband william could pose as a servant during their daring escape from slavery. mid-century british social convections dictated that only william could speak at anti-slavery lectures. nevertheless ellen's demure lady-like deportment on stage spoke volumes define racist stereotypes and illustrating the the inherent injustice of slavery abolitionist promenade and mixed-race couples while attending the 1851 world's fair in london and the fisk jubilee singers were lionized during their profitable fundraising tours in britain publicly doting on african americans particularly black women allowed britons to demonstrate their superior civilized behavior. acknowledging african americans as ladies and gentlemen's provided britons with a
delicious opportunity to rattle american observers. the poise and grace demonstrated by black female performers in the 1850s like singer elizabeth, greenfield and allocationist. mary webb reinforced the right of black women to be treated as black ladies. by 1859 abolitionist sarah parker redman demanded the right to speak in public without losing respectability the moral crisis posed by slavery necessitated breaking social conventions raymond announced slavery for perpetuating color prejudice that prevented her from enjoying her status as a free woman. and as an outsider, she could be welcomed in england as a respectable lady. discomfort with the changing role of women in society lingered but women increasingly found that if they did not stray too far from gender norms they could carve out a space for themselves in the public sphere. in the 1870s francis willard president of the women's christian temperance union pioneered the creation of an unimpeachable female public
persona the lady reformer. by adopting a womanly appearance exhibiting suitably feminine behavior and cleaning a moral duty to protect women and children from harm members of the temperance movement crafted an acceptable role for middle-class women as lady reformers on both sides of the atlantic. well as build her public identity in britain upon the foundation's laid by these women combining the roles of the black lady and the lady reformer. she created a space for herself as a black lady reformer in britain. brits may have been willing to accept african-american women as ladies, but wells still needed to play the part by exemplifying proper feminine behavior. she needed to demonstrate her respectability and intelligence while still evoking sympathetic even paternalistic reactions from her audiences. moses allocution lessons and participation dramatic readings in memphis served her well in this regard scottish pulpit remarked with some wonder that wells was educated and speaks admirably. there's a pathos in her voice which catches the auditor and
thrills him. other accounts praised was a speeches for their preparation and skillful yet feminine delivery, although her strong american accent might sound harsh for some british years reporters admired her educated and forcible style. despite delivering addresses of considerable links reporters noted that she was listened to most attentively and sympathetically. newspapers remarked on her humble apologies for being compelled to use manuscript on the ground that she had not much practice in public speaking the notes however did not interfere with her delivery, but rather enhanced it because she seldom referred to them. this observation was not surprising wells was an experienced public speaker, but by appearing uncomfortable with making a public address wells demonstrated an adequate degree of vulnerability and important feminine quality. she dressed meetings in a quiet and highly cultured manner as one reporter commented. there was a reserve of dignity that added much to our
presentations charm. by skillfully demonstrating her status as a lady on the british platform wells reinforced the legitimacy of her campaign and her critique of white supremacy. this was no small feat. the issues was tackled in her speeches rape interracial sexual relations and brutal murders were not considered respectable topics for public discussion, especially for an unmarried middle class woman who should know nothing about sex like sarah parker redman before her was argued that the system of segregation precluded the possibility of enjoying her status as a lady in the united states. although britains may have thought that the freeing of the slaves gave the -- in america all the liberties which others enjoyed to make men and women of themselves. well as explained that was not true instead the tyrant slavery had gone to work under a new and a new guys. african-american space bitter resentment from white southerners who had lost both their property and their
livelihood when they lost their slaves. the unchristian sentiment of segregationist policies excluded african americans from the moral institutions of the nation only allowing the races to mix in low places like saloons and gambling halls. drawers of the churches young men's christian associations the temperance halls was complained every avenue of influences tending to the higher development of men and women were closed against the --. although wells might be welcomed in as a ser and educated self-respecting woman with -- blood in her veins would be regarded as a contamination of these hallowed white spaces and denied entry. therefore it was the crisis of racial prejudice not personal ambition that had forced. well wells out of her proper feminine role as respectable school teacher and driven her onto the british platform to plead the case of her people before the world. whilst further diffuse potential criticism by carrying herself with poise and dignity.
journalists responded positively to wells's appearance and demeanor in the public platform the scottish propulpit reported that was miss wells was quietly but neatly attired and the white flower that adorned her breasts contrasted well with her dark dress and dark features. other journalists praised wells for our manners and pleasant voice. such attention to female speakers bearing and physical appearance was not uncommon in late 19th century newspaper articles these commons assisted audiences and evaluating how well female speakers maintain traditional feminine values as they navigated the public sphere. by passing the test and winning acceptance as a black lady reformer wells won the right to move within respectable british circles and speak out against the dire threats facing her community. was used her experience in journalism to cultivate editors a british newspapers the press responded with coverage of her activism and well as quickly became the public face of the anti-linching movement in britain.
was demonstrated herself to be a savvy crusader against injustice. she directed her interviews to highlight the brutality of lynching by focusing on the shocking cases of cruelty and torture committed by lynch mobs against women and children. wells were counted in detail the brutal murders of two black women wrongly accused of poisoning one was hanged naked in a courthouse square while the other was nailed into a barrel lined with spikes and thrown down a hill to be impaled to death a black man who refused to confess to the murder of a local white man was forced to watch as a mob hanged his son and his young daughter in front of him. how could americans continue to claim that lynching was used to punish black rapists when women and children were being tortured to death by mobs? was argued that the lynching for rape narrative had made it impossible to voice dissent without appearing to support the violation of white women the silence of good americans. she observed. they're tacit encouragement.
they're silent acquiescence had allowed the black shadow of lawlessness in the form of lynch law to spread its wings over the whole country. if well's insisted the true cause of lynching were in fact rape then white men who controlled the mechanisms of law enforcement legislature in courts had nothing to fear the denial of african-american civil rights did nothing to stop rape make your laws as terrible as you like against that class of crime whilst pleaded devise what tortures you will inflict death by any means you choose go back to the most barbarous punishments of the most barbarous ages if you think you must but prove your criminal a criminal first, hang shoot roast him if you will if american civilization demands this but give him a trial first. wells new she took a risk by bringing the terrible reality of lynching into british homes through the pages of the morning newspapers, but she insisted that she had no choice even though the tasks sickened her the dire state of american race
relations compelled her to testify it is frightful that i should have to discuss such things at these. but my people are being flayed scourged hanged shot and burnt and the sympathy of the world is being turned aside by the hideous charge that we are a beastial race in whose presence womanhood has never safe nor childhood sacred. that our men are unclean brutes and whose vile nature even fire cannot burn respect for the law. and shall i not tell the world the truth? while american christians remain silent the moral power of great britain remained the last hope of the black community. america will not listen to us while as lamented she despises us as an inferior race. but the united states will be obligated to listen to a nation which she owns as her equal if not her superior. to personal interviews networking with newspaper editors and hard-fought correspondence battles with
lynching apologists. well as one the editorial support of several british newspapers. after weighing her testimony the bradford observer determined that there seems to be nothing irrational or impossible in the plea that african americans not to be branded and burned alive and rolled in nailed casts or even hanged on a tree at the women's sport of a mob. the new castle daily leader steered at america's boasted forwardness and civilization which in reality amounted to a chamber of horrors for black americans. the london daily chronicle did not pull punches and its denunciation the south race prejudice and even a slight mixture of cruelty is one thing the horrible torture is not only described by miss wells but admitted and almost gloried in by the southerners themselves are quite another when we read of such atrocities the editor concluded we ask ourselves whether the southern states are really fitted for self-government. such powerful indictments from british newspapers increased
public sympathy for wells's campaign brought her message to a wider british audience and fostered the emerging transatlantic debate on lynching. by the end of may 1894 british newspapers began to report on the impact of wells' campaigns in america. according to the london daily chronicle miss iw wells the young-colored lady who was conducting an england such a plucky campaign for the rescue of her people from the brutalities of the southern states of america. seems to be accomplishing by her indirect attack what direct efforts have hitherto failed to affect some of the american papers have noticed the comments of the british press with great magnanimity, miss wells may congratulate herself that her gallon efforts are already bearing this fruit and that her words are already echoing from continent to continent. the anglo american times a british newspaper devoted purely to american issues took notice of wells' campaign in mid-june. the role this colored lee is plain is producing effect in america. and they were right.
every american protest against english interference demonstrated the power of british moral authority in american culture. well as a supporters were passionate in their disapproval one sympathizer lamented in the london sun that even the inquisition gave a man some sort of a trial but southern chivalry does not. all lynching accomplished was to inflict the most dreadful tortures on men who may be quite innocent of any crime. it became increasingly difficult for the american press and political leaders to ignore the flood of condemnations that followed in the wake of wells of speaking engagements. by early june 1894 governor george's governor william j. northern felt compelled to respond publicly to wells's campaigns writing and indignant letter to the editor of the london daily chronicle northern rebutted british annunciations of american lynching by attacking wells's credibility. he argued that the british press should rely upon more generally accepted authority for their information and denied accusations that the people of the south were somehow unduly
brutal and cruel above all nations. another although northern claim that he did not feel compelled to reply to what ms. ida b wells might say through the british papers moses accusations against the south had clearly struck a nerve with the governor and editorial note explained that the daily chronicle had been forced to emit a paragraph of governor northern's letter which the english law of libel differing as it does from that of georgia forbids us from inserting. men of honor the editors scolded should not permit themselves to attribute unworthy and so sordid motives to a young egress who comes to this country to plead for her unfortunate fellow countrymen. the south had already indicted itself repeatedly before the world with reports of the most brutal lynchings, which we cannot suppose were invented by newspaper agencies. although the attempts of southern lynching apologists to rally conservative british opinion to their side gained some momentum towards the end of 1894 wells is antique lynching campaigns permanently altered
the way in which the british public understood and discussed american lynching. british commentators accepted many of her arguments about american lynching even when they did not accept her. in june 1894 even the economist a conservative periodical with white supremacist sympathies took an editorial stance against american lynching accepting that race hatred not rape remained at the heart of american lynn chain. while the rape of white women by black men might exasperate the dominant race almost to frenzy the editor saw no reason for confusing the innocent with the guilty or for accepting the magnitude of the crime imputed as evidence of its committal. the editor made it clear that he did not ask good americans to interfere for the sake of the -- but for that of their own countrymen who cannot be good republicans with lynch law in their midst. perhaps the most impressive evidence that wells's arguments influence. the british public is the fact that several journals accepted the existence of consensual relationships between black men
and white women and acknowledge the possibility that such relationships might lie at the heart of at least some rate accusations in cases of lynching. of all of wells as assertions. this was the most controversial for it attacked the victorian image of white women as the highest embodiment of chastity and moral purity. wells was acutely aware of the power and volatility of this issue after all it was her editorial on this very topic the prompted a furious memphis mob to destroy her newspaper and force her into permanent exile from the south by repeating the accusation the consensual relationships between white women and black men existed the british press had granted her campaign a major victory. well sought to amplify her voice by leaving the country and it worked despite numerous challenges and setbacks in less than 18 months. wells mobilized a vibrant network of british reformers who pressured american social and political leaders to denounce mob violence her efforts stirred british moral outrage over
racially motivated killings of unarmed men women and children in the post civil war era england remained the largest importer of southern cotton and british capital counted for roughly 75% of all foreign investments in the united states. cotton prices fell and regional competition for investors had dramatically increased with a global economic depression that spanned from 1893 to 1897. white simpler simply could not risk alienating potential investors and the controversy well stirred threatened to imperil the region's economic future. through her personal testimony and her supporters sometimes settle efforts to inject her arguments into broader public debate moses campaign had redefined the way in which the british public understood the nature of mob violence and american race relations british tolerance for american lynching quickly dropped. mounting british criticism pressured prominent americans, especially southern political leaders to choose whether to defend or decry lynn shane.
outraged by the attention garnered by a black troublemaker southern politicians and newspaper editors launched vitriolic attacks to discredit wells' campaign forcing her character to become the story in the american press. southern politicians and social leaders rejected wells as claims as slanderous and dismissed her as a -- adventurous governor northern even accused wells of lying about conditions in the south to promote western land development schemes. southern newspaper editors mocked well as a status as a black lady reformer with headlines calling her miss ida labeling her a -- winch and referring to her as the wells woman while addressing white women in the same article with the title, miss. but while white american newspapers might denounce her as a winch or a nasty-minded mulatris. these attacks fell on deaf ears in britain in a nation was strict libel laws and a strong sense of decorum. no british editor would have dared to repeat unsubstantiated attacks on the character of respectable lady regardless of
her color. frustrated by wells' continued success john w jax president of the missouri, press association wrote to her brave supporters in march 1895 asserting that as a black woman. wells could not be considered a reliable source. jack's claimed that all black women were prostitutes and natural liars and thieves who were fully devoid of morality. the attack was so offensive that josephine saint-pierre ruffin, victoria earl matthews, margaret murray, washington and other leading african-american reformers came together with wells to form what became the national association of colored women to defend the honor of black women and and assert their status as ladies. as southern states employed violence and disfranchisement measures to nullify the political power of black men. black women's club members assumed an important community leadership roles following the example of wells' campaigns. they insisted that all women not just white women deserve protection and demanded that anyone accused of crime regardless of race should have a fair trial.
after the end of her international campaign well as relocated to chicago where she married ferdinand barnett in 1895 always pushing the boundaries of societal expectations. she hyphenated her surname wells barnett and refused to permit marriage and motherhood to slow her down. was established a settlement house in chicago to assist black migrants from the south. she co-founded the national association the advancement of colored people in 1909 organized black chicago residents to form the alpha suffrage club and helped elect the city's first black alderman in 1914. she fought against racial discrimination within the woman's suffrage movement and even ran for a seat in the illinois state senate in 1930. whilst truly was an inspiring woman. she forged career paths for today's women of color as social leaders journalists and politicians and her fearless battles against injustice and oppression deserve to be remembered and celebrated by future generations. wells wrote her autobiography because she feared that her story would be lost to history
if she did not record it. she recorded a lifetime of dedicated activism, but she especially wanted her transit like anti-linching canes campaigns to be remembered. unfortunately wells as fears were justified for a variety of reasons including friction caused by her un compromising nature and a of sexism thrown in. her contributions were marginalized or emitted from the early histories of the organizations. she helped found. scholars largely ignored her contributions until the posthumous publication of her autobiography in 1970 now 50 years later. she has been embraced as an important historical figure in the black freedom struggle. and as we move forward our nation cannot afford to shy away from the kind of tough questions. wells posed her activism revealed that the narratives we tell ourselves to justify the way things have always been need to be carefully scrutinized false justifications need to be dismantled no matter how uncomfortable tackling issues of power and privilege might be
only by pushing through our discomfort and embracing the light of truth can real change occur. thank you so much for your attention. i would be delighted to answer any questions. might have like thank you sarah. so we will take questions if you have a question if you would raise your hand and kelly will find you and take those questions. and you you mentioned when her parents passed away. she had five younger brothers and sisters. did she take care of them? what happened to them? she tried to take some financial
responsibility for her siblings, but she never succeeded in providing direct care for them. she apprentice her to brothers off to learn trades and she moved in with an aunt in memphis in order to be able to have a place for her and she had one sister with disabilities and a much younger sister that she needed to take care of and her aunt provided support for them while she was teaching so when well started her teaching career, she actually was traveling to some of the rural school districts, which is why she was on the train when she got kicked off by the conductor and so she was gone during the week and then would come back on the weekends to help with the housework and her siblings. but then would go back out to to work during the week remotely so that she could earn money to help support them. and so she worked her way up into the memphis schools so she could be closer to them and also earn a lot more money. i think by the time that she was
working on the the newspaper though that she was living by herself at that point. she was living in boarding houses without her siblings. was lynching used as a kind of terrorism in other countries that had enslaved populations. lynching the idea of mob violence itself is not something that's unique to american society, but it certainly became the term lynching became something that was very strongly associated with america. so acts of my violence have always occurred, but the the combination of justifying those as a form of community justice is something that americans embraced very strongly and move into our international identity in dealing with other nations. so the the history of the term lynching has changed a lot over
the past 200 years and it was popularized in the early 19th century, and it's definition evolved over time. so some of the earliest accounts of the use of the word lynching we're designed to justify the use of extra legal violence in places that had insecure criminal justice system. so a frontier communities places that had limited resources and might not be able to give people proper trials or hold people in jail waiting trial. this was seen as a way of getting around that and we have accounts that people going to great links to justify the use of lynching including forming what they called lynch courts where communities would come together and hear testimony against the accused and then vote on whether or not the person should be killed for it. and so we have this debate this this evolving set of narratives that are created to justify
lynching over time and in some regards the way that wells entered into this conversation was facilitated by the united kingdom being behind some of the arguments being made by linking apologists in the united states. they were totally okay with this idea of frontier justice and this lynching for rape narrative came out of nowhere from them. from their perspective but before the 1890s and wells as campaigns britain's actually used the term lynching to describe acts of mob violence in their own communities and lynching was also used to describe acts of non-lethal violence as well. so people might get flogged or tard and fethered or ducked in a pond which was actually a big deal when you had no laundry facilities for your clothes. and so those acts were also dubbed as lynching and and britain's liked the term in the newspapers until it started being associated with racist terrorism, and then they started that's something that americans
do because the britain's wanted to feel better about their own imperial endeavors and their colonization of non-white people around the world. and so they drew lines there around that term like oh that's what americans do we don't do that. and so the popularity the term plummets in any kind of use for after the 1890s, so it's there's whole fields of scholarship about mob violence in countries around the world a move has happened over the past 10 years or so where people started thinking about lynching in a global context instead of just an american one, and there's a lot of evidence for mob violence being a a tool that was used in communities around the world, but that that tag of lynching was something that americans really held on to and claimed for themselves. other questions do i see any
hands? there's one right behind you kelly. hi, do you know if there are any recordings of ms. wells speeches that still exist? i am not aware of any there may be but i haven't encountered any the family had a fire at one point and a lot of wells's personal possessions were destroyed in their house fire. and so if they had been in her possession, they might not have survived that period and she also died in 1931 where i mean there were some recordings by then, but it wasn't ubiquitous the way that it became in the decades that followed. so unfortunately as far as i know there aren't any that's a good question. i don't actually anymore. so i'll ask you one or two that occurred to me now. you have no way of knowing this obviously, but you might be interested though that the
oldest residence hall. on this campus is what do you know canada the oldest residence hall? mary, washington you know. now wife knows what is it terry? francis willard hall, so tell us a little bit about out of the wells relationship with francis what i know it was called together positive. so yes, so francis willard and i'd be well as did not see eye to eye on a lot of things and one of the challenges that wells faced when she went to england was trying to help britain's understand that. american reformers people of good christian values people who were trying to do good who people who are trying to make the world a better place also accepted all of these false narratives and these false beliefs and justifications for mob violence against african americans and britain's really
we don't believe you you need to show us evidence because i mean, how could you know great people be complicit in this and so wells found an interview with francis willard in which she expressed sympathy for her southern sisters for the fears that they feel when they leave sight of their their home fires right the idea of leaving the home puts them in danger and they might encounter black men who might rape them because that's what's going on in the in the south and and wells use this interview as evidence. see here's francis willard francis willard was a extremely popular character in britain because she crossed the atlantic and was instrumental in helping the british women's temperance association be able to make inroads and popularizing this lady reformer model. she pioneered respectability for women in public. she even had dresses designed specifically for women to be
able to wear as reformers that were feminine, but also not showy so that they could look the part without being criticized for being trying to refuse their sex their gender and and trying to be something that they weren't and so willard had done great things for women particularly the women's christian temperance union and also their british counterparts. we're instrumental in the suffrage campaigns in both countries, the women's christian temperance union became the largest women's suffrage organization in the nation, but it did it is a stealth organization. it didn't say it was a suffrage organization, but they argued on behalf of women's rights to become voters in order to protect women and children from the dangers of alcohol. and so when wells brought interviews from willard that showed that she at least
accepted or tolerated or acknowledged these these narratives about black criminality and fears of black rapists. she was able to have a concrete example of here's somebody you really strongly admire and she also believes this stuff. that caused a huge uproar in in british social circles. there are people who are very very angry with wells. how could she impune fran willard's character? there are still i think the wctus website still has kind of a takedown trying to make sense of this conflict that they had between one another. but wells wanted to use anything she could get her hands on to help build her case and so eventually some of willard supporters in the british women's temperance movement actually proposed anti-linching statements to be passed at some of the may meetings in order to endorse not well, but at least the the need to stop lynching in the united states, and so there
was kind of a tacitrus that was called over time between the two of them, but that definitely was a huge controversy that got covered in the press in both countries and drew a lot of a lot of attention. oh, can you tell us a bit about relationship with frederick douglass? so ellis was actually close to douglas particularly after she was exiled from memphis. she can went into his circle she became friends with his second wife and was able to work with him. they collaborated on a protest pamphlet against the exclusion of african americans from the 1893 chicago world's fair the colombian exposition celebrating 400 years of american progress and exceptionalism. and because african americans
had been systematically excluded from any of the fair's exhibits only the only non-white people who are allowed to participate in the fair where those who were in the midway exhibits showing the evolution of societies from primitive hunter-gatherer societies up to the great achievements of white americans as you entered into the main exhibition halls of what was literally called the white city. and and so they created a protest pamphlet that wells wrote a substantial portion of she signed her name to the article on lynch law which was most closely associated with her but she also probably wrote if not all substantial portions of the chapter on racial segregation and also the chapter on conflict system and so she was instrumental in helping to put that pamphlet together douglas became a really important figure for wells because there was a big division
a big rupture that happened in the organization that hit invited her over to britain and and so she needed to have somebody vouch for her who was beyond reproach and douglas was the preeminent african-american statesman of the 19th century. he was a celebrated abolitionist in england and scotland and ireland people loved him there very strongly and so wells needed to court douglas's public support to give her legitimacy when things got very rocky between the the supporters that had invited her over to britain during both of her campaigns. this had really hampered her ability to be able to organize as well as she had wanted to and so she was able to eventually cajole douglas and remind him that he he knows her and should be able to trust her by now that
they work together and he knows what she's about and what she's trying to do for their people. and you need to send me that letter of endorsement so that i'm going to be able to continue my work here and he did he finally relented after a little bit of a suspicion because he was friends with catherine impey and catherine impean isabella, fibey mayo the two co-founders of the society for the recognition of the brotherhood of man had a massive rupture that split up many of the supporters that wells had initially found in england, but she was able to rally and pull support from other areas. the rev charles aikid was incredibly supportive of her and helped her move into new circles that were outside of impean mayo's kerfuffle to be able to work with and when douglas lent her lent her his support publicly. she was able to really capitalize on that in her second campaign and bring home the
victories that looking for. do you know if she had any relationship with or do you know anything about her attitudes to a theodore roosevelt? i'm not actually sure very much about her. attitudes towards him because he had brother ambivalent record on black rights as you know, he roosevelt was a difficult character to navigate because he favored booker t washington. so wells is really close to douglas working closely with him on these protests. he's willing to support her and she actually helps him start speaking out against lynching for the first time a whole lynching for rape narrative had made it very difficult for black men to be able to protest against lynching because it seems self-serving and so wells gave him ammunition to be able to attack it from different
directions. and so she seemed like she could be the logical heir apparent to douglas when he dies in 1895, but instead that's the year that we have booker t washington's famous atlantic compromise speech the columbian ex the cotton states exposition speech where he encourages black southerners and white southerners to cast down their bucket where they are that we can remain as does the five fingers and all things that are purely social but one in as the hand and all things essential to mutual progress so we can be together an economics and we'll tolerate racial segregation on everything else. and and when he became a dominant force in black leadership white people loved washington, right? they loved tuskegee. they thought good about giving to this the school which was actually a stealth teacher college. they showed off all the brick making and and domestic service
cooking classes and all of this but really they were teaching an army of teachers to go out and try to improve the black community and washington was secretly funding legal challenges against racial segregation laws, but he managed to keep it very distant from his reputation because it would have ruined his his position of leadership and he had gotten close with theodore roosevelt in the white house and that turned into a big eruption of controversy because he had potentially eaten something while he was there visiting roosevelt and so washington had become the gatekeeper on whether or not you got funding whether or not you got access to the press. he controlled many black newspapers and and what kind of stories we're going to be written or not written about you. and so he was somebody you couldn't really push back against and be successful and then he was on the outs because roosevelt had such an incredible
backlash at the mere suspicion that he might have dined in the white house at the same time as the president and so there was a period there in the early 1900s when everything was really very much an upheaval and nobody was doing was really in a great position to be a forefront leader at that time. last question over here another question. okay good. thank you for your wonderful talk. thank you. i have a question. so i'd be wells often talked about the twin infant infamies convict leasing and lynching and i often think about what she would think about today. you have 2.4 million people incarcerated. in prison majority of them black men and women and then also the
persistent violence against black bodies so i would this may be tough for you to answer but what do you think she would say today? and 2022 that she may have not said. in 1894 well, i think maybe her language would be a little bit more colorful in 2022 than it was in 1894, but she was pretty colorful back then too. i think she'd be really frustrated to see how much has stayed the same the convict lease system was instrumental in helping to to promote and support the jim segregation laws by. disproportionately racking up statistics about black criminality. so if you have a system that is focused on trying to make profit off of exploiting the loophole in the 13th amendment that allows you to force people into
labor. if they are convicted of a crime so we can't have slavery or involuntary servitude unless you convicted somebody of a crime. and so states passed laws designed to provide easy excuses for convicting black people of crimes in order to be able to sell their labor to do road construction works to blast away mountains to be able to mine or to dig railway tunnels all sorts of horrendous labor conditions people were subjected to to the point where if you had a sentence of seven years of labor you were pretty much guaranteed to die during that sentence in some states the as much as a third of convict laborers would die every year in the horrible conditions that they are subjected to the people who were contracting their labor. we're not required to provide them with adequate shelter clothing medical care or even protection from the weather
people are sleeping in flooded conditions all kinds of just horrendous experiences and in the process, these states who would at times go and just attack a picnic right a church picnic to round up people that they could accuse of being vagrants or or doing something inappropriate and convict them and give them harsh long sentences and in the process not only did they profit. they also generated these massive different statistics between black rates of incarceration and white rates of incarceration. so black men and white men get into an altercation. they have exactly the same charges against them black man's gonna punished with three or seven years of labor white man's gonna get five dollar fine. and in the process they build up this picture because everyone loves statistics in the late 19th early 20th century social science was everything and data data was the thing that drew all of the conversations and so you
have these massive numbers of black people who are being convicted of crimes making it look like there's an epidemic a criminality and this is used to justify jim croce aggregation. if we have segregation laws, we can control people and we can protect white women and keep them sheltered in a way. we can also try to stop the one suffrage movement because we're protecting white women by keeping them sheltered away. and so there's a lot of benefits to this and in the process we establish patterns of criminal justice practices that continue to disproportionately punish convict police black people to the point that we have our mass incarceration experiment problem today. and so there's a direct pipeline between the the logic of the system of gojanbeck lee's system with mass incarceration today. at the same time that's coupled with you also have lynching.
and lynching is an object demonstration. that black lives have no value that they do not matter to this country to to the judicial system that you can murder people with impunity. and the state is going to support you. they're going to applaud you. they're going to turn a blind eye and you can do this and that racial terrorism was really useful at trying to stop black advancement. those two things together set up many of the assumptions of blackmail criminality. that lead into the assumptions used by san law enforcement officials in their interactions with people that they encountered during the course of their jobs, including unarmed black men who are seen perceived to be more of a threat more likely to result in a violent confrontation and people are more willing to use lethal force
and the state up until quite recently has for the most part turn to blind eye to this providing people with immunity because it's part of the community will that we have policing and so i think wells would be frustrated that this is still the case, but i think that she would also be heartened by some of the transformations that we've had in terms of our community dialogues our public discussions of these that these realities exist that these underlying narratives of law and order rhetoric are just the same rhetoric in new forms today, and i think that ultimately, the fact that communities are starting to be held accountable. i think of the the conviction of the three men who killed ahmad aubrey in georgia modern lynching they went to jail and
they're going to be in jail for a very long time. we have the killing of the murder of george floyd by derek chauvin in minneapolis and his example his demonstration of the unlimited power to take life. was a wake-up call to many americans who had not understood what that actually was like before. that was the henry smith lynching for britons but for us today, and so i think when we have these moments, i think she would be out in the trenches fighting to get that conversation continued because you have these moments that you can capitalize on to change the conversation and pull back the curtain and show what's happening underneath. so i think right now she would be very busy. right. thank you for that. great question. well unfortunately you're out of time, but i want to say thanks to sarah for her presentation in