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On Lynchings by Ida Barnett

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Though the end of the Civil War brought legal emancipation to Blacks, their social oppression continued long afterward. The most virulent form of this ongoing persecution was the practice of lynching. During the 1880s and 1890s, more than one hundred African Americans per year were lynched, and in 1892 alone the toll of murdered men and women reached a peak of 161.

In that awful year, Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), the editor of a small newspaper for Blacks in Memphis, Tennessee, raised one lone voice of protest, charging that White businessmen had instigated three local lynchings against their Black competitors. In retaliation, her editorial office was ransacked and she was forced to flee the South and move to New York City.

So began a crusade against lynching that became the focus of Wells-Barnett's long, active, and very courageous life. In New York she published "Southern Horrors," her first pamphlet on the subject. Later, after moving to Chicago and marrying lawyer Ferdinand Barnett, she brought out the pamphlets "A Red Record" and "Mob Rule in New Orleans." Anticipating possible accusations of distortion, she was careful to present factually accurate evidence and she deliberately relied on Southern White sources as well as statistics gathered by the "Chicago Tribune."

All three of these documents are here collected. Wells-Barnett's work remains important to this day not only as a cry of protest against injustice but also as valuable historical documentation of terrible crimes that must never be forgotten.

In 1892 she published a pamphlet titled Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, and A Red Record, 1892



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