Orginal Publication Date
Ethnic Studies Review
Ida B. Wells (Barnett) was the first writer to document the lynchings of African Americans. Born in 1862, at age sixteen she had to raise her four brothers and sisters after the 1878 deaths of her parents. Still, she managed to attend Rust College and Fisk University. While teaching school in Memphis, Wells first began writing articles for a church newspaper and then contributed to other Baptist newspapers. She used the pen name of "Iola," and the popularity of her articles led to her becoming co-owner of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight in 1889. It was the lynching of three of her friends that caused her to question the lies surrounding lynchings of African Americans -- that African American males were punished for raping white women. On March 9, 1892, she published the editorial "Eight Men Lynched" in the Free Speech that would force her to leave Memphis.
Copyright ©ESR, The National Association for Ethnic Studies, 1997