According to Facebook, I’m a Rising Creator and Writer which is so amusing to me because all I do is put down the random thoughts that be swirling around in my discombobulated brain. As a Rising Creator, when I’m on Facebook, I read the comment section of various posts that are popular, and I’ve come to a sad conclusion: Black people have a fucked up mentality when it comes to women and female sexuality which is due to the religious indoctrination we received when we were brought to this country to be chattel.
Just a disclaimer: I noticed this long before the internet existed but the Black social media has really exposed how backwards and dumb people when it comes to women. Black women are expected to be the work horses for the entire community. We are literally expected to work ourselves to death for a community that wouldn’t piss on us if we were on fire. Zora Neale Hurston said it best: “De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.”
Now what does this have to do with religion? Black folks have been taught that women are lesser beings than men and it is their duty to serve men and the entire community. This idea that women are lesser than men comes from Christianity. That women aren’t worthy of anything but being a walking womb that cooks and cleans. Even Black folks who claim that they aren’t religious anymore hang to that belief.
Let’s talk about female sexuality and Black folks. If a Black woman revels in her sexuality, she ain’t nothing but a two bit whore who is not worth two dead flies. She’s not worthy of marriage but the men of the community don’t have a problem with pumping some babies in her. The irony of having sex with a woman who is considered a hoe but not using a condom. Just past stupid.
Black women keep this mentality alive due to competition for crumbs of affection from Black men. If they dog out the whores and put themselves in alliance with the men of the community who call these women whores, perhaps they will get some attention. But all that they get is a wet ass, and some babies too.
For some reason, Black folks believe that hanging on to these tenets of organized religion is going to help us collectively. It’s been an online movement that is encouraging Black folks to go back to the 1950s when Black women were happy housewives and Black men took care of their families. Which is a major distortion of history because Black women have always worked in this country and was never afforded the opportunity to be a Stepford Wife. Their incomes were needed to take care of their families, along with the husbands incomes. I suspect that the men just want to go back to a time when they could beat women’s asses with impunity and without repercussions. The women are just tired of working and want a man to take of them financially, not understanding that being at a man’s mercy financially is dangerous as fuck. And once again, religion plays a part in this because yes the Bible states that men are supposed to provide, but it was written thousands of years ago and we are living in a capitalist society. A family needs 90 incomes in order to live comfortably in this country.
This chokehold that religion has on the Black community is making it impossible for us to evolve and if anything, the community is going back to the Stone Age era when if a man wanted a woman, all he had to do is club her upside her head and drag her off to the cave. And I suspect some sisters would be totally fine with this as long as they had a husband.
I have noticed that it has become very trendy to be a mean spirited, spiteful, bitchy woo Black woman and this blog will discuss the reasons why this is trending and why it a pitiful phenomenon.
The advent of reality television shows such as “The Bad Girls Club” and the entire Love and Hip Hop series has made it normal for Black women to show their complete asses on television and it has also encouraged the Black women who watch these shows to emulate their behavior. Now real talk, these women aren’t running up on other Black women starting fights offline because they would be getting their asses beat on the daily but they get online and bully women who don’t agree with them.
I have seen this behavior with my own two eyes while cruising the social media streets and it is something else. I’ve also been bullied by these chicks but because I’m an old broad, I just ignored their ignorant asses because I know that they would never be this bold in real life.
These are the same Black women who spend their days and nights whining about the misogynistic behavior of Black men who love to drag Black women for wearing weave, makeup, breathing, and then have the audacity to turn around and do the same thing to other Black women. These women don’t even see the irony in their actions because they are too blinded by their bitchery.
Another reason for this behavior amongst some Black women is low self esteem. When you have been indoctrinated from birth to believe that you are less than nothing because you were born Black and female, it is very easy to become a bully and unfortunately, this is the life of a lot of Black women.
Imagine growing up being told that you’re nothing but a fast ass hoe since you were a child. Being told that you are ugly, Black, and not worthy of anything in life. And this has been the life for many sisters but instead getting into therapy, they take it out on other Black women.
And lastly, some Black women just aren’t shit. They are petty, they are miserable, and are filled with bile. They are filled with hatred against Black women because they hate being Black themselves. They would sell their souls and their first born child to become a white woman in another lifetime and they should be avoided at all costs.
I don’t understand this mentality because despite all the shit I talk, I’m the original Miss Nicey Nicey. I love children and animals and I’m polite to my elders. Whenever I see a fly ass Black woman, I bow down to the goddess that she is and tell her how fabulous she is. So Black women who make the conscious decision to be a mean spirited bitch are weird to me. I hope that these women find some inner peace and learn to leave other women alone before they get their asses beat.
One of the least known facts about the concept of race is that that it is a socially constructed ideology. Race and subsequent racism was created by White Europeans and Americans in order to justify the enslavement of millions of people for profit. When people feel guilty about an action they committed, they will often try to find ways of justifying their actions. This is what Europeans and Americans did when they decided to explain away the actions of human bondage by declaring Africans subhuman. In doing this, they changed the interpretation of history itself. A land where complex civilizations had existed for centuries was reduced to the “Dark Continent” and its people declared savages. All in the name of profit for the status quo and converting the “natives” to Christianity. The history of Africa was rewritten to make Whites the conquerors who ‘civilized’ the natives.
Although ‘race’ as a description of the physical condition probably dates back to the dawn of the human species, most scholars agree that it was primarily through European expansion in the 16th to the 19th century that ‘race’ as a physical description emerged. It was when European colonizers, whose aim was mainly to seek out valuable primary products such as sugar, tin, rubber and human labor, came into contact with ‘native’ populations who were ‘people of color’ that racism became a dominant force in Western society. In order to maintain control of these populations, they were defined as inferior human beings primarily because of their different cultural practices as well as their not being White, the desired and ‘normal’ skin color. Pushing such people to the margins did not stop European men from sexually mixing with local women producing, wherever colonialism prospered, a so-called ‘mixed’ race of people. Thus, race as a biological factor was constructed in racism and became a major factor in racial discrimination. This ideology rapidly spread throughout Europe and other areas such as North America, spreading the doctrines of alleged racial inferiority.
This ideology of racial dictatorship and hierarchy quickly took root in American society by the signing of a famous document, “The United States Constitution.” This document clearly states, ‘We the People of the United States.’ The question proposed from this statement is, who exactly are “the People?” It certainly was not the enslaved Africans because they were considered to be three fifths of a human being. In addition to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence also posed many questions of racism. The Declaration of Independence was written to sever ties in which people were denied their unalienable rights. However, the Constitution was still denying several people of their life, liberty, and or the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious to see that the Constitution laid the framework for which a segregated, racial society was formed in America.
Enslaved Africans were just as human as the White men whose rights were secured through the signing of the Constitution, but their rights did not matter. Because they did not have any rights, they were forced to live in a society in which the government officials did not represent them. Equality and justice was not for all, just for wealthy, land-owning White men. The practice of discriminating on the basis of skin color was born and would be legal until the six decade of the twentieth century. Even in the new millennium, racial inequalities still plague America and until this country can admit the wrongs done to enslaved Africans and their ancestors, no one will be free.
Two weeks ago, a very special lady crossed over into eternity and her name was Rosemary. She was my first cousin and she was loved by many. As a child, she was the most glamorous woman in the world to me and she brought excitement with her presence whenever she showed up.
She was this blazing comet who came to earth to fill us with joy and laughter, brimming over with passion and fire. Now her job is done and while here, she lived her life with gusto and pizazz. It’s going to take a long, long time for me to deal with the reality that she is no longer amongst us in the human form but some people are unique like that, their essence so powerful yet at the same time, so fragile. Those who loved her should be grateful that we had her at all. Rest In Power Rosemary. You was the big sister I never had and I will always love you.
If the lord is willing and the creek don’t rise as the elders used to say, I will be 52 years old in November and what an amazing journey it has been. I have experienced so many trials and tribulations during my time on this planet. From childhood sexual abuse, domestic abuse, poverty, loss of family and friends, I have been through it all and not only managed to survive but thrive in a society that wasn’t created for women who look like me.
It has not been an easy ride at all but I am here and grateful because too many people I loved didn’t have the privilege of growing older. The two little girls I used to play with as child who died in a fire. My brother who died on his 34th birthday. My cousin who died at the age of 46. My aunts who died at 37 and 48. My three sister-friends who died at the ages of 45 and 48. So many others in the world that I never knew but who were also loved and missed dearly by those who loved them.
However, what is so weird to me is how people in this culture don’t respect the elders and look at them with disdain and contempt. Make fun of them because they are still alive. Laugh at their wrinkles and gray hairs. Their sagging skin. Signs of living that should be considered a badge of honor instead of a curse.
It’s like the very act of getting older is something to be ashamed of and people get a thrill out of shaming the elders. As if their asses aren’t going to get older one day if they are that lucky and blessed. I guess these types of people are taking a magical fairy dust that is going to keep them from turning 40. Hmm.
This culture makes it seems like getting older is a bad thing when all it means is that you survived and have a story to tell. But so often, the voices of the elders, particularly those of the crones are shouted down and silenced. Why? I think it is because knowledge is power and gaining knowledge is a part of the aging process although some older folks are still chasing their youth and their brains have stagnated unfortunately. But it’s a lot of elders who have valuable information and y’all better listen.
Like older women. We have a ton of experience when it comes to relationships and men but often when a crone attempts to give advice to a younger woman concerning a man, for the most part, she is ignored, screamed at, and told that she is just jealous because her ass is old. As if older women in this current culture have anything to be jealous of. I am in these social media streets and see clearly what is going on in the dating field. A bunch of entitled, whining ass men, both old and young and parched, silly ass women looking for male validation. I ain’t jealous of shit boos.
In May of this year, I became a grandmother again to an absolutely beautiful brown baby boy. My widdle widdle brown sugar booga man. I’m so grateful that I have lived long to see three generations descend from my lineage and I am proud as fuck. And I hope to live long enough to see more grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There is nothing wrong with getting older because as I stated earlier, that means you survived and have a story to tell. So stop being ashamed for getting older and start cussing folks out who say something slick about your age. Fuck them and keep living.
Two years has passed since my brother died, and I’ve experienced a multiple of emotions ranging from the deepest despair to raging anger and anxiety. But lately, I feel myself turning into someone who doesn’t give a fuck about too much of anything.
I mean I love my children, grandchild, and my future grandchild to be. My friends and other family members but I’m not getting any enjoyment from life and it scares me at times. Because you can’t walk around not giving a fuck about anything. Or can you?
Honestly it’s easy to not give a fuck about stuff because the vast majority of people in America are dumb as a box of hair. Consumed with celebrities and other superficial mess while their way of life is burning to the ground. I just be sitting back watching these ninnies fight and argue with strangers online about celebrities who wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire.
But I’m not going to lie. It scares me to be so apathetic about life now because by nature, I’m a passionate woman filled with fire. And I want that fire back instead of being the ice queen I’ve become. I’m praying for that day when my sense of optimism and joy about living comes back. Pray for me too.
The most dirtiest secret in the Black community is the lack of concern and empathy for its women and children. When any crime is committed against either of these two groups, they are blamed and the crime is justified. And ignored. As a result of this sick mentality, 1484 Black women and girls were murdered in 2021 at the hands of Black men. It’s a nasty little tale of misogyny and pure ignorance.
In the Black community, women and children are looked as prey and commodities. Fodder for angry Black men and women to take their frustrations out on. Hard day at work? Go home and beat your woman’s ass. No job at all? Wait for her to get off work and beat her ass. Your baby daddy is treating you like shit but you won’t leave him and need someone to take your frustrations out on? Beat your child or children’s asses. Don’t like your girlfriend’s child or children? Beat their asses every day for existing.
This violence against women and children is quite common in the Black community, especially in the lower class urban areas of America. The sad part about this behavior is that it had been normalized. Normalized to the point that if you speak out against this sickness, you are looked at as a race traitor. A coon and all sorts of dumb ass names. Because to these people, protecting the image of the Black man as a perpetual victim is more important than protecting the victims of domestic violence, rape, and murder.
A Facebook friend of mine has been tracking the murders of Black women and girls for almost seven years and the statistics she has found are disgusting and mind boggling. According to her statistics and statistics from the FBI, four Black women and girls were killed per day in 2020. Four per day for a whole year and in 2021, it was worse. But according to the social media, if men were served the biggest piece of chicken at dinner and Black women stopped wearing weave and makeup, these murders would magically disappear. Hell a lot of these creatures believe that these statistics are lies and it’s just a plot by the Man to bring the Black man down. It’s hard to believe that people are really this fucking stupid but they are.
But honestly, the main reason why these murders are being ignored is because the image of the murderers have to be protected at all cost and the murderers are Black men. Only Black men can be victims in the Black community. Everyone else has to stand in line and wait for their turn. And as usual, some ninnies on the internet actually had the audacity to try to blame other races for these murders. Like other races are going to jeopardize their own lives by coming to the hood to kill somebody in 2022 or the years before this one. It’s not the 1950s anymore. I’m so sick of this shit.
Last year, my friend had a march in September in Atlanta to bring attention to the murders of Black women and girls and only 50 people showed up. This year, she’s having another one in September again that will be located in Washington D.C. and she’s hoping for a larger turnout due to the publicity she’s received last year. I’m going to be there to support her and I hope that anyone who reads this will too.
Black folks (including Black women) don’t like women and girls. They really don’t. And for those who think this is a figment of my imagination and I’m lying, shut the fuck up. And listen to what I’m about to say.
When a Black woman or girl is murdered, she is blamed for being murdered and the killer is coddled and his murderous behavior is excused. Because Black women and girls are some loud mouthed, ignorant bitches who probably said something so foul that she deserved to die.
When a Black woman or girl is raped, she is blamed for “getting” herself raped. Because she was walking around half naked enticing these men and you know that the man couldn’t help himself. Even if she was clothed from head to toe, she brought it on herself because she should stayed her ass in the house. Because women don’t deserve direct sunlight and air. All she needs is darkness. And when a little Black girl is molested and sexually abused, all onus is placed upon the child and not the nasty, amoral, deviant child molester. Because little Black girls are whores too.
When a Black woman or girl is abused and beaten due to domestic violence, she brought it on herself because she talked too damn much and if she had been quiet, more ladylike, knew how to rest in her “femininity,” and was more submissive, that man wouldn’t have had to lay hands on her. If that little fast ass girl hadn’t got slick at the mouth, her mother’s boyfriend wouldn’t have had to beat her with an extension cord until she bled. Just be quiet and stay in your place as a female.
Whenever a Black male celebrity does something heinous to a Black woman or girl, his behavior is justified because Black women and girls ain’t shit. Historically, they have been in cahoots with the Man to bring Black men down, especially Black men with money. Black women and girls are nothing but a bunch of gold diggers who are looking to come up off a hard working brother.
I’m writing this with much sarcasm but this is the mentality of a large portion of Black folks, if not the majority. The men of the Black community are looked at as gods and the women are looked at as serfs and serfs don’t deserve kindness and respect. They are considered commodities to be used and need to be beaten and abused on a regular basis because they ain’t nothing but a bunch of whores. And the Bible said so. Due to this sick, pathetic mentality, I’m starting to suspect that the Black community is cursed. You can’t treat the womb, the creators of life like garbage and expect good tidings. And until this mentality is disabused and stomped into dust, the Black community will continue to keep getting this cosmic, karmic ass whupping they been receiving as retribution for treating the creators of life like a nonentity.
I didn’t discover bell hooks until I went to college in 2002. I majored in sociology and minored in history. Took two Women and Gender courses and it was then I was introduced to her works. And my life changed.
Her writings made me think deeply and I learned to fight for myself as a Black woman living in a white patriarchal society that despises all women but has placed the Black woman on a special rung in hell. Learned to fight for my dignity and autonomy in system that wasn’t set up for my advancement but my demise.
And as I’m getting older, due to her works, I have learned to have grace for others who weren’t as fortunate as me to have access to her writings and the writings of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Assata Shakur and others. Black writers who reveled in their Blackness and wasn’t afraid to show it. Ignorance is cultivated in American culture these days so some people are doomed and all you can do is pity them and move on.
So Rest in Power bell hooks. Although you are no longer here in form, your works will continue to educate and transform, encouraging folks to improve their lives and elevate their minds. Folks like me.
My first introduction to Ida B. Wells-Barnett was during Black History Month when I was in grade school. Other than that, her history was alien to me as someone from Mars. Of course her name was familiar to me; there used to be a housing project on 39th and King Drive Boulevard that was named after her and although I recognized her name, I really did not know anything about her history or achievements until I read a book by Tonya Bolden entitled, African-American Women: 150 Crusader, Creators, and Uplifters. Only then, did I find out about the true history of Ida B. Wells-Barnett and what her accomplishments meant, not only for Blacks in this county but for anyone has been oppressed and marginalized in American society.
Her story gnawed at me. A woman born in slavery, she would grow up to become one of the great pioneer activists of the Civil Rights movement. She was a precursor of Rosa Parks, and was a feminist, newspaper editor and publisher, investigative journalist, co-founder of the NAACP, political candidate, mother, wife, and the single most powerful leader in the anti-lynching campaign in America.
She made major contributions to the field of sociology although her role was later obscured and marginalized. Lengerman and Niebrugge-Brantley (1998) further commented on her contributions as well as the contributions made by another African-American woman sociologist, Anna Julia Cooper: “Cooper and Wells-Barnett were not lone voices, but part of an enormous, segregated tradition of social analysis by African-Americans that included a rich discourse by African American women. Cooper and Wells-Barnett created a social theory morally and passionately centered in a standard of justice derived from Judeo-Christian religion and American demographic and republic claims. This theory of the intersection of race, class, and gender added a vital strand to the feminist tradition of sociology” (pp.171-172).
She was dynamic, controversial, temperamental, and uncompromising. She stood up for what she believed in, even at her own expense. However, even with all of her achievements, she is rarely mentioned in the history textbooks. For this reason, this is a love story dedicated to the life and achievements of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, particularly her crusades against the anti-lynching of Black folks during this particular era in time.
In the latter part of nineteenth century, sociological theories from Ida B. Wells-Barnett were groundbreaking. She was born on July 16, 1862, in Holly Springs, Mississippi and she was to two freed slaves. Her mother, Lizzie Warrenton, was a cook; and her father, James, was a carpenter and they believed that an education was very important. After the Civil War ended, they enrolled their children in Rust College, the local school set up by the Freedmen’s Aid Society (Hine 1993). Founded in 1866, the Society established schools and colleges for recently freed slaves in the South, and it was at Rust College where Miss Ida learned to read and write.
When she turned sixteen, her life changed forever. Both of her parents and her infant brother died during a yellow fever epidemic, and Ida was left to care for her remaining five siblings. She began teaching at a rural school for $25 a month and, a year later, took a position in Memphis, Tennessee in the city’s segregated black schools. Upon arriving in Memphis, she learned that teaching salaries were higher than Mississippi, and she learned that even though there was a stronger demand for literate individuals to teach, there was a stronger need for qualified ones. According to Salley (1993), because she needed qualifications in order to teach, she enrolled into Fisk University and gained her qualification in under a year.
While returning to Memphis from a teaching convention in New York, she was met with racial provocation for the first time while traveling by railway. Ida was asked by the conductor to move to the segregated car, even though she had paid for a ticket in the ladies coach car. She refused to leave, and bit the conductor’s hand as he forcibly pushed her from the railway car. She sued the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, and was awarded $500 by a local court. Even though she won the case, the headlines read, “DARKY DAMSEL GETS DAMAGES,” and the decision was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court and was reversed (Bolden, 1996). She was ordered to pay court frees in the amount of $200. This incident infuriated Ida and spurred her to investigate and report other incidents of racism.
Outraged by the inequality of Black and White schools in Memphis and the unfairness of Jim Crow segregation, Ida became a community activist and began writing articles calling attention to the plight of African Americans. She wrote for a weekly Black newspaper called The Living Way.
Wells-Barnett’s teaching career ended upon her “dismissal in 1891 for protesting about the conditions in Black schools” (Salley, 1993, p.115). During her time as a school teacher, Wells-Barnett along with other Black teachers was said to have gathered and “shared writing and discussion on Friday evening, and produced a newspaper covering the week’s events and gossip.” (Lengermann and Niebrugge-Brantley, 1998, p.151). The newspaper was officially established and published and distributed under the name Memphis Free Speech and Headlights throughout the Back community a year after she was dismissed.
It has been said that her motivation to become a social analyst was the results of her involvement with the Memphis Free Speech and Headlights both as editor and columnist under the pen name Lola and as part owner. Unfortunately, her printing press was destroyed and she was run out of town by a White mob (Sally, 1993).
After getting dismissed from her teaching position, her attention then shifted from schools to the issue that would dominate her work for most of her life; lynching. Lynching was the brutal and lawless killing of Black men and women, often falsely accused of crimes, and usually perpetrated by sizable violent mobs of Whites.
It was during this Reconstruction Era, after the Civil War, that Black men made immediate civil gains such as voting, holding public office, and owning land. Yet, groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) developed at the turn of the century as a response. They made it difficult for Southern Blacks to vote or live in peace, attempting to maintain White supremacy through coercion and violence, including lynching (Salzman, 2004) .
Infuriated by the Memphis lynching in 1892, which involved a close friend, Ida expressed her grief in an editorial: “The city of Memphis has demonstrated that neither character nor standing avails the Negro if he dares to protect himself against the White man or become his rival. There is nothing we can do about the lynching now, as we are outnumbered and without arms. There is therefore only one thing left we can do; save our money and leave town which will neither protect our lives and property, nor give us a fair trial in the courts, when accused by White persons” (Hine, 1993).
At the same time Wells saw what lynching really was; an excuse to “keep the nigger down” and execute Blacks “who acquired wealth and property.” (Duster, 1971) This sparked her investigation into the causes of lynchings. Since Whites could no longer hold Blacks as slaves they found in mob violence a different means of maintaining a system of “economic, psychological, and sexual exploitation” (Duster, 1971).
In addition, the result of her investigation and editorial sparked the Black community to retaliate and encourage all who could to leave, and those who stayed to boycott the city Railroad Company. Ida saw the success of the boycott, and asserted, “the appeal to the White man’s pocket has ever been more effectual than all appeals ever made to his conscience.” (Duster, 1971.)
As mentioned earlier, because of Well-Barnett’s racial identity, her social theory was well shaped by the events unfolding within her community as experienced by the first generation of African-Americans after Emancipation (Lengerman and Niebrugge-Brantley, 1998). According to Lengerman and Niebrugge-Brantley (1998): “This community took as one assumption that White dominance and its accompanying doctrine of White supremacy had to be confronted. American social Darwinists were giving doctrine of White intellectual legitimacy to Whites, which at this time meant Anglo-Saxon, imperialism abroad and supremacy at home, providing dogma such as that in James K. Hosmer’s“Short History of Anglo-Saxon Freedom”(p. 159).
Wells-Barnett’s social theory is considered to be a radical non-Marxian conflict theory with a focus on a “pathological interaction between differences and power in U.S. society. A condition they variously label as repression, domination, suppression, despotism, subordination, subjugation, tyranny, and our American conflict.” (Lengerman and Niebrugge-Brantley, 1998, p.161).
Her social theory was also considered “Black Feminism Sociology,” and according to Lengerman and Niebrugge-Brantley (1998), there was four presented themes within the theory: one, her object of social analysis and of a method appropriate to the project; two, her model of the social world; three, her theory of domination and four, her alternative to domination. Although those four themes were present in her theory, one could assume that the major theme above the four was the implication of a moral form of resistance against oppression, which is not farfetched seeing that oppression was the major theme in her life.
She used an amazingly straight-forward writing style to prove a very bold argument against lynching, discrediting the excuse of rape and other excuses. Wells used specific examples and sociological theories to disprove the justifications of lynching made by Southerners. Within her pamphlets, Wells portrays the views of African-Americans in the 1890s.
Southerners allowed widespread lynchings while hiding behind the excuse of “defending the honor of its women.”(Jones-Royster, 1997). The charge of rape was used in many cases to lynch innocent African-American men. The victim’s innocence was often proved after his death. Wells states that the raping of White women by Negro men is an outright lie. Wells supports her statements with several stories about mutual relationships between White women and Black men. White men are free to have relationships with colored women, but colored men will receive death for relationships with white women (Duster, 1971).
As shown by Wells, the excuses used by Whites to torture and murder African-Americans were false. In no way can these kinds of crimes ever be truly justified because of the victim’s crimes. Perhaps the most obvious reasons these crimes happened are hate and fear. Differences between groups of people have always caused fear of the unknown, which translates into hate. Whites no longer depended on African-American slave labor for their livelihood. When African Americans were slaves they were considered “property” and “obviously, it was more profitable to sell slaves than to kill them”(Jones-Royster, 1997). With all restraint of “property” and “profit” lifted, Whites during and after Reconstruction were able to freely give into their fear and hate by torturing and killing African-Americans.
Wells’ investigations revealed that regardless of whether one was poor and jobless or middle-class, educated, and successful, all Blacks were vulnerable to lynching. Black women, too, were victimized by mob violence and terror. Occasionally they were lynched for alleged crimes and insults, but more often these women were left behind as survivors of those lynched. Up to this time, African-Americans had almost never been free from some form of persecution; the period of Reconstruction was particularly difficult. With the occurrences of lynching steadily increasing with no hope of relenting, their new found freedom ensured little safety.
Eventually, Wells was drawn to Chicago in 1893 to protest the racism of the exclusion of African Americans from the World’s Fair. With the help of Frederick Douglass, she distributed 20,000 pamphlets entitled “The Reason Why the Colored American is Not in the Columbian Exposition.” On June 27, 1895, she married Ferdinand Lee Barnett, lawyer and editor of the Chicago Conservator, and continued to write while raising four children with him (Duster, 1971).
Ida believed firmly in the power of the vote to effect change for African-American men and women. She saw enfranchisement as the key to reform and equality, and she integrated the Women’s Suffrage movement by marching in the 1913 Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C., with the all White Illinois delegation (Sterling, 1979).
She continued to write in her later years, and remained one of the most widely syndicated Black columnists in America. She published articles on race issues and injustices that were printed in African-American newspapers nationwide. Toward the end of her life, Ida worked to address the social and political concerns of African-Americans in Chicago. She made an unsuccessful run as an independent candidate for the Illinois State Senate in 1930, and died the next year of the kidney disease uremia (Duster, 1971).
Wells-Barnett’s influence was profound. When the federal government built the first low-income housing project in Chicago’s “Black belt” in 1940, it was named in her honor (Sterling, 1979). Her autobiography was published posthumously by her daughter, Alfreda Duster in 1971.
In Chicago, she helped to found a number of Black female and reform organizations, such as the Ida B. Wells Club, the Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago, and the Chicago Negro Fellowship League. She also served as director of Chicago’s Cook County League of Women’s Clubs. These clubs were a means for Blacks to join together for support and to organize to effect change (Duster, 1971). At the national level, Wells-Barnett was a central figure in the founding of the National Association of Colored Women, a visible organization that worked for adequate child care, job training, and wage equity, as well as against lynching and transportation segregation.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s passion for justice made her a tireless crusader for the rights of African Americans and women. She was a social reformer, a suffragist, a civil rights activist, and a philanthropist. Her writings, regardless of the risk to her safety and life, raised public awareness and involvement to address a number of social ills resulting in the oppression or murder of African Americans.
Her service of time through the creation of myriad clubs and organizations improved the lives of her people. Her work in Chicago, in her final years, focused on providing for the needs of the city’s African American population. Modeled after Jane Addams’ Settlement House efforts, Wells created urban houses for Black men, where they could live safely and have access to recreational amusements while they searched for employment (Hines, 1993).
Ida B. Wells-Barnett is sometimes referred to as the “Mother of the Civil Rights movement.” She refused to be moved from the Whites only railway car eighty years before the famous Rosa Parks held her seat on an Alabama bus. She encouraged the Black community to take steps to gain political rights, using the same means that would successfully be used much later during the Civil Rights movement such as economic and transportation boycotts (Hines, 1993).
In similar fashion to Margaret Sanger (of the Birth Control movement) and Susan B. Anthony (of the Women’s Suffrage movement), Wells-Barnett was a woman who dedicated her entire life to upholding her firm beliefs about social reform. She began by writing about the disparity in education and school conditions for Black children and spent much of her life working to abolish lynching through public awareness (Hines, 1993). Ida, through her example, writings, speaking, and service in various organizations, elevated the voice of women’s equality and suffrage. She was a pioneering Black female journalist, and led a very public life in a time when most women, Black or White, did not actively participate in the male political realm.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was connected to many prominent leaders and reformers, male and female, during her lifetime. Among them: Jane Addams (1860-1935) was a social reformer, social worker and the founder of Chicago’s Hull House, the most famous of the settlement houses. Addams and Wells-Barnett successfully worked together to block the segregation of Chicago’s public schools (Sterling, 1979).
She was also connected to W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963) who was a famous Black scholar, sociologist, researcher, writer, and civil rights activist who voiced opposition to the accomodationist views of his contemporary, Booker T. Washington (1856-1915). Washington urged African Americans to focus on self-improvement through education and economic opportunity instead of pressing Whites for political rights.
Ida B. Wells outwardly disagreed with Booker T. Washington’s position on industrial education and was mortified with his implication that “Blacks were illiterate and immoral, until the coming of Tuskegee.” (Hine, 1993) Outraged by his remarks, she considered his rejection of a college education as a “bitter pill.” (Hine, 1993). She wrote an article entitled “Booker T. Washington and His Critics”regarding industrial education. “This gospel of work is no new one for the Negro. It is the South’s old slavery practice in a new dress.” (Hine, 1993).
She felt that focusing only on industrial education would limit the opportunities of aspiring young Blacks and she saw Washington as no better than the Whites that justified their actions through lynching. Wells-Barnett joined DuBois in his belief that African Americans should militantly demand civil rights, and the two worked together on several occasions, most substantially as co-founders of the NAACP.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), of which Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a founding member, is still a thriving organization with thousands of members nationally. The association continues to advocate for the advancement of African Americans.
Two of the primary issues on which Wells-Barnett worked on, anti-lynching and women’s suffrage, are now defunct issues. Lynching is a federal crime and women received the vote in 1920 with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. For this reason, related groups that arose at the time, such as the Anti-lynching League, the Freedmen’s Aid Society, and the National Association of Colored Women are no longer in existence. Yet, the League of Women Voters was created as an outgrowth of the suffragist movement, and is an organization that still educates men and women about their responsibilities as voters.
Wells-Barnett’s contribution to the field of sociology is so significant that her work “predates or is contemporaneous with the now canonized contributions of White male thinkers like Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, George Simmel, and George Herbert Mead, as well as the contributions of White female sociologists like Adams, Gilman, Marianne Weber, Webb, and the Chicago Women” (Lengerman and Niebrugge-Brantley, 1998, p.171).
Ms. Wells-Barnett is an inspiring example of the power of the written word and the determination to succeed despite the odds. She was an African American woman, the daughter of slaves and considered the lowest of the low on the historical totem pole in American society and her tenacity, ambition, courage and desire for justice changed history. She was direct and possessed strength during a time when this was unheard of by a woman, especially a Black woman. A reformer of her time, she believed African-Americans had to organize themselves and fight for their independence against White oppression. She roused the White South to bitter defense and began the awakening of the conscience of a nation.
Through her campaign, writings, and agitation she raised crucial questions about the future of Back Americans. Today African-Americans do not rally against oppression like those that came before. Gone are the days when Blacks organized together; today Blacks live in a society that does not want to get involved as a whole. What this generation fails to realize is that although the days of Jim Crow have disappeared, it is important to realize that the fight for equality is never over.
In the preface of On Lynching: Southern Horrors, A Red Record and A Mob Rule in New Orleans (a compilation of her major works), she writes, “The Afro-American is not a bestial race. If this work can contribute in any way toward proving this, and at the same time arouse the conscience of the American people to a demand for justice to every citizen, and punishment by law for the lawless, I shall feel I have done my race a service. Other considerations are of minor importance” (Wells, 1969).
Barnett, Ida. B. Wells. (1969). On Lynching: Southern Horrors A Red Record and Mob Rule in New Orleans. New York, New York: Arno Press.
Bolden, Tonya. (1996) The Book of African-American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters. Avon, MA: Adams Media.
Duster, Alfreda M. (1971).Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida. B. Wells. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.
Hine, Darlene Clark, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, & Elsa B. Brown, Eds.(1993). Black Women in America. Vol. 2. Brooklyn, New York: Carlson Publishing.
Jones-Royster, Jacqueline. (1997). Southern Horrors and Other Writings; The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Lengermann, P. M. & Niebrugge-Brantley, J. (1998). The Woman Founders: Sociology and Social Theory, 1830-1930. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Salley, Columbus. (1993). The Black 100: A ranking of the most influential African-Americans, post and present. New York: Carol Publishing Group.
Salzman, Jack, ed. (2001). African-American Culture and History. Vol. 4. New York, New York: Macmillian Reference USA, 2001, 881-83. .
Sterling, Dorothy. (1979). Black Foremothers: Three Lives. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Feminist Press, 1979, 60-117.