Mary Church Terrell was the daughter of former slaves who became one of the first African-American millionaires in America. She grew up in a religious, conservative family that valued the importance of education. Terrell was able to attend Oberlin College, one of the few integrated colleges in the United States at the time. Terrell’s activism began after her friend Thomas Moss, was lynched by whites who owned a competing business. Her activism focused around the idea of racial uplift, the idea that “blacks would help end racial discrimination by advancing themselves and other members of the race through education, work, and community activism”. Terrell worked actively with the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was later appointed a charter member for the NAACP.
Ida B. Wells was born in Mississippi in 1862 during the Civil War. Similar to Terrell, her family stressed the importance of education to Wells at an early age. Wells attended Rust College, but was expelled after a dispute with the university president. Wells focused her activism on white mob violence and lynchings. The roots of her activism are similar to Terrell’s as one of her close friends was lynched pushing her into discussing mob violence. Wells traveled nationally focusing on exposing lynchings and white women in the suffrage movement who ignored lynchings.
Wells and Terrell both focused on anti-lynching campaigns. While Wells primarily sought to expose the realities of lynchings and bring awareness to them, Terrell focused on the advancement of African-Americans through racial uplift. The roots of their activism come from the witnessing of lynchings of close personal friends. Both women propose responses to anti-black violence instead of solutions, but Terrell’s concept of racial uplift was considered a solution by some.