Southern Horrors And Other Writings Essay, Research Paper
What is mob violence? Well, nowadays, mob violence differs in comparison to mob violence in the nineteenth century. In the years following the Civil War, there was a lot of mistreatment of African Americans. Ida B. Wells, a young African American journalist, investigated and accounted for the violence acted upon the African Americans during the Post-Reconstruction period. Wells wrote about her investigations because she belied it was the “first step to tell the world the facts” and to make lynching “a crime against American values”(27). In the book Southern Horrors and Other Writings, Royster discussed the mob violence of the lower South and the steps that Wells took to end this violence.
During the nineteenth century, a lot of different acts of mob violence were done to the African Americans in the South. Wells focused on lynching of African Americans by the mob. The reasons given for lynching were “allegations of murder, burglary, arson, poisoning water and livestock, insulting whites, being insolent, and other perceived ‘offenses,’ and sometimes they were lynched on no charges at all”(29). These reasons were not very legitimate. The lynchings could have been handled in a different way as in a court and jury, not by a mob. The mob violence really attacked the African Americans to a point where they had no say in the doings. The people that were mistreated were men, women, and children. Ida B. Wells reported in A Red Record that “during a single year, 1892, 241 men, women, and children across 26 states were lynched. Of the 241, 160 people were identified as African Americans, which represented an increase of 200 percent over the ten-year period since 1882″(10). This shows that at the time of Reconstruction, violence toward African Americans increased rapidly.
Often, African Americans were lynched for odd reasons. Many African American men were lynched for alleged rape of white women even though they had been in a relationship with these women. Wells wrote that the “whites” excuse was that “Negroes had to be killed to avenge their assaults upon women”(77-78). The press also said that “Negroes were like “beasts” and had to be punished “quickly”(62). The punishment of “whites” compared to African Americans at this time was not very comparable. The statistics showed that “more than ten-thousand Negroes have been killed in cold blood, without judicial trial and only three white men have been tried, convicted, and executed”(75-76). Basicly, the African Americans were being killed by whites because the whites were upset that they were now free and not their property. They did not want them to gain too much power of independence.
Ida B. Wells did all she could to help the African Americans in dealing with the mob violence during the nineteenth century. She took several steps to achieve her crusades to end mob violence. Wells investigated lynchings, wrote newspaper articles and editorials, spoke about mob violence, and joined organizations to prevent violence. First of all, Wells had to “dismantle the stereotypes based on gender and race”(30). The stereotypes said that the “white women were pure and innocent” but the “African American women were wanton, licentious, promiscuous”(30). Wells had to stop this because she did not want people thinking like this about African American women. Wells wrote a pamphlet Southern Horrors that described violence. Later, Wells made a speech in Washington, D.C. hoping she would gain support from Britain, which she did. Wells joined anti-lynching committees like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People(NAACP), which provided protection against mob violence. Others were the Anti-Lynching Crusaders and the Association of Southern Women for the Protection of Lynching(ASWPL). These groups were mainly made up of women seeking public awareness.
Ida B. Wells also took two British tours after gaining support from Britain. On her first tour, she campaigned and sent copies of her doings back to Memphis. After doing this, the Memphis people stopped lynching for about twenty years. On her second tour, she was even more successful. Wells was to send back information to the United States, also. Well was also successful with the Columbus Exposition in Chicago which excluded African Americans from participating. Ida B. Wells was very successful with the mob violence but by the time of her death, the lynching had not ended. It didn’t end but the figures did decrease greatly.
Ida B. Wells hoped that all her doings would help improve the lives of African American women. Wells hoped to accomplish this by breaking up the stereotypes between gender and race. African American women were seen very opposite compared to the white women and Wells planned to stop that. She wanted the African American women to be seen equally. By having women join organizations and speak for themselves, African American women would gain respect and be treated equally. When these women joined the organizations, they were heard and people responded to them.
Mob violence in the nineteenth century was very difficult to deal with. The “whites” believed the African Americans should not have been set free; as a result, the whites attacked and punished the African Americans. Ida B. Wells, an anti-lynching radical, became a “champion of truth and justice and a highly visible international leader against mob violence, disorder, and lawlessness”(33). Wells did all she could to protect the African Americans from the mob. According to “legal history,” the anti-lynching activities showed “no success since Congress was unable to pass the Blair Bill, the Dyer Bill or any other legislation that would stem the tide of violence”(40). Even though this is how history is recorded, Ida B. Wells did help in reducing the number of lynchings in the nineteenth century towards African Americans.
Royster, Jacqueline Jones. Southern Horrors and Other Writings. New York: Boston, 1997.