Black Woman Reformer: Ida B. Wells, Lynching, and by Sarah Silkey

By Sarah Silkey

During the early Eighteen Nineties, a sequence of stunning lynchings introduced unparalleled foreign realization to American mob violence. This curiosity created a chance for Ida B. Wells, an African American journalist and civil rights activist from Memphis, to shuttle to England to domesticate British ethical indignation opposed to American lynching. Wells tailored race and gender roles confirmed by way of African American abolitionists in Britain to valid her activism as a “black girl reformer”—a position American society denied her—and assert her correct to shield her race from out of the country. in response to huge archival study carried out within the usa and Britain, Black girl Reformer through Sarah Silkey explores Wells’s 1893–94 antilynching campaigns in the broader contexts of nineteenth-century transatlantic reform networks and debates concerning the function of extralegal violence in American society.

Through her talking engagements, newspaper interviews, and the efforts of her British allies, Wells altered the framework of public debates on lynching in either Britain and the us. now not content material to view lynching as a benign kind of frontier justice, Britons permitted Wells’s statement that lynching was once a racially inspired act of brutality designed to implement white supremacy. As British feedback of lynching fixed, southern political leaders desirous to keep optimistic kinfolk with strength international traders have been pressured to settle on even if to publicly safeguard or decry lynching. even supposing British ethical strain and media cognizance didn't finish lynching, the foreign scrutiny generated by means of Wells’s campaigns remodeled our figuring out of racial violence and made American groups more and more reluctant to include lynching.

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Additional resources for Black Woman Reformer: Ida B. Wells, Lynching, and Transatlantic Activism

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67 The lynched prisoners had been accused of ambushing and murdering police chief David C. Hennessy, who had won popularity in New Orleans and international renown for his tough stance against the Mafia. In 1881, Hennessy had played an instrumental role in tracking down, identifying, and arresting Giuseppe Esposito, a Sicilian bandit who had fled Italy after kidnapping a British merchant and holding him for ransom in 1876. When a shootout between rival stevedore gangs battling for control of New Orleans’s lucrative South American fruit trade docks led to the arrest and prosecution of local Mafia leaders in 1890, Hennessy was once again the arresting officer.

59 If American communities wanted to maintain British public support for extralegal violence, they would have to be careful not to create such sensational news stories. As Britons embraced the argument that the special circumstances of American frontier life necessitated lynching, criticism of the practice gradually waned in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The intense debate over parliamentary reform that had prompted Conservative politicians to denounce lynching and democracy in the 1830s and 1840s had substantially diminished by 1860.

Townshend’s 1892 account of frontier lynching in the Nineteenth Century, a journal intended for an educated audience, was set in a community with no lawenforcement facilities. The community organized a “people’s court” and conducted an impromptu trial for an accused murderer within hours of the crime. The accused was quickly found guilty and hanged, prompting “many of the worst characters in town” to leave the same night. 66 Although British commentators had been appalled by the use of a lynch court in Madison County in 1835, half a century later lynching had become an integral part of transatlantic popular culture.

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