Ida B. Wells: “Lynch Law in America”



Although she was one of the few black leaders who made lynching a top focus for concern in the 1890s—a decade in which blacks also faced the imposition of disenfranchisement and Jim Crow segregation—Wells-Barnett’s antilynching campaign succeeded in bringing the issue to national attention. Heightened awareness outside the South about the pervasiveness of this practice and the dubiousness of the public excuses for it eventually flowered into broad public disapproval. The response to mob violence in Springfield, Illinois, in 1908 that launched the NAACP reflected a changed opinion among Progressive northerners, who saw the spread of lynching as a moral concern of the first order. No doubt Wells-Barnett’s campaign deserves a great deal of credit for this change in opinion.

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Harper's Weekly illustration of lynching and its collaborators (Library of Congress)

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