In 1894, Ida B. Wells travelled to Britain and declared to a Leeds audience she was there to “tell the black people’s side of the story.” Throughout her life, Wells resolved to do just that.
The only way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them
Born in 1862, Wells became a famous activist, orator, suffragist, author and journalist, who single-handedly launched an attack against the lynching of black people and helped found the NAACP in 1909 (just two of her many achievements). Orphaned when she was 16, Wells took care of her family and earned money as a school teacher and quickly became interested in civil rights.
In 1884, Wells successfully sued a railroad company for racial discrimination and protested against discrepancies in white and black teacher’s pay. In the early 1890s, Wells’ friend was lynched in Memphis, which began her ferocious attacks against white supremacy and lynching of black men, women and children. She travelled across the US and the UK denouncing racial violence, and collating data surrounding every lynching case she could find. Her pamphlet ‘Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases’ was published in 1892 on both sides of the Atlantic.
Wells travelled to Britain in 1893 and 1894 at the invitation of social activist Catherine Impey. Her second tour was far more successful than the first, as she exploited as many connections to Victorian print culture as she could to maximize her message.
Wells – feminist, activist, suffragist - died in 1931.
[Lynchings] happened not during the days of the Spanish Inquisition, not during the Dark Ages of the world, these crimes were not committed by the cannibals of the South Sea Islands - had they been so committed there would have been a terrible outcry - but were committed in the glare of the nineteenth century civilization, and by men who belonged to the Anglo-Saxon race, who boasted of their Christianity. The world was singularly silent, and the tone of condemnation and the voice that ought to cry shame on such deeds had been very hesitating and undecided. The world, she believed, had done so little regarding this matter because it knew so little it was her mission to give to the world the black people’s side of the story.