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PHOTO ESSAY

Jim Crow Justice

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Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Courtesy of Oscar B. Willis, Chicago, IL.

A teacher-turned-journalist and co-owner of the Memphis Free Speech, Ida B. Wells-Barnett launched the first phase of the antilynching movement in 1892, after a mob murdered three Memphis storeowners, one of whom was a close friend. The fact that the victims were prosperous businessmen prompted Wells-Barnett to question the common assumption that black men were lynched in retribution for sexual assaults on white women. She began investigating other lynchings, discovering that many lynch victims were not accused of rape and that behind many rape charges lay interracial affairs. Wells-Barnett published her findings in the New York Age with "Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases" (1892), which analyzed the economic roots of lynching and linked violence against black men with the sexual exploitation of black women. The most ardent voice to begin speaking out against lynching, Wells-Barnett challenged white stereotypes about lynching both in America and abroad and was a tireless advocate for civil rights and women's suffrage.

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