Unit Four, Assignment One, Virginia Adams

History deems both Mary Eliza Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells-Barnett as incredibly crucial African American Activists. The accolades of the former, who graduated from college before her illustrious career, include membership in the National American Woman Suffrage Organization, the National Association of Colored Women’s Club (as President), the District of Columbia Board of Education, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the American Association of University Women. Terrell focused on bridging the gap between white and black women, especially ensuring that suffrage movements petitioned for this right to extend to women of both races. She also served as a proponent for equal education for women of all races, and advocated against Jim Crow Laws and lynchings. Wells, on the other hand, spending her career as a journalist, became known primarily for her exposés on the horrific nature of lynchings (after having gained some publicity for the Federal law suit she lost for her rejection from a first class train). Some cite religious motivations as a key facet of this activism, without explaining from which tradition these motivations stem. Although she also involved herself in suffrage movements, she frequently expressed her frustrations that the primary proponents of this movement did not give lynching adequate attention. She furthermore served in the National Association of Colored Women’s Club and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Terrell’s version of violence centers around instances in Washington D.C. of overt racism, in which the perpetrator sometimes blatantly explains that he or she only justifies this action of subordination or prohibiting access on the grounds of race. Most of her examples tell of individual stories across many facets of society (leisure, education, restaurants, transportation) that segregate and cites that violence frequently accompanies episodes of such discrimination. According to Terrell, such violence ensues because whites do not fear consequences from the legal system. Focusing then on women, Terrell explains how all of these race-base struggles are heightened for women of color, as education does little in providing them more job opportunities (they cannot serve in fields requiring education). As such, she explains how society tells and shows women of color they do not need an education.

Wells, on the other hand, focuses on unpacking how lynching happens due to an anarchy present despite the law. Such crimes derive their justification from an “unwritten law”, frequently as a retaliation for the extension of suffrage to African American males. Wells thus communicates how women especially become the victims of such crimes, because they face repercussions of the rage of a right’s expansion that they themselves still have yet to receive. The humiliation also perpetuates and encourages this cycle of violence, according to Wells, especially when combined with the overall lack of legal consequences these aggressors face.

Beyond the commonality of both authors’ violence stemming from its perpetrator’s lack of fear of the law, these authors both remark how, especially for women of color, a great irony exists between de iure customs and de facto circumstances in the United States. How far both types of violence have strayed from what the United States claims it has believed provide a crucial commonality within these crimes. Furthermore, while neither author proposes specific policy solutions against these aggressions, both suggest that the nation must realign itself so that it places what it claims to value, in actuality, does reflect itself in the focus of its actions.

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