Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Mississippi during the Civil War. 6 months later, her and her family were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Wells attended Rust College, a historically black and Methodist institution, but had to drop out after her parents died of yellow fever. She worked as a teacher but launched her career in social activism after she was asked to leave a first class train car on account of her being black. She started her own press in Memphis and wrote social commentaries, unafraid of criticizing anyone. After three of her friends were lynched before their court trial, she focused on the issue, raising awareness and provoking action. She toured internationally speaking on the injustices of lynch mobs in the South. Angry Memphis locals burned and raided her press and she moved to Chicago to continue her work. She co founded the NAACP and became involved in the suffragette movement, focusing on the rights of black women. She was well known and respected for her work, but was asked to march at the back of the Suffragette Parade in DC so as to not offend white suffragettes. She refused and joined the march on her own terms.
- “[Rape charges during a lynching] closed the heart, stifled the conscience, warped the judgment and hushed the voice of pulpit and press.”
- “A Winfield rifle should have a place of honor in every black home. The more the Afro-American yields and cringes and begs, the more he has to do so, the more he is insulted, outraged and lynched.”
- “I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or a rat in a trap.”
Mary Church Terrell was born in 1863 to freed slaves. Her parents were prominent business owners who sent Terrell to college. Terrell earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in teaching. She took on the issue of lynching after one of her close friends was lynched in Memphis. It was the same incident that prompted Ida B Wells to take action on the issue. Terrell was a co founder of the NAACP and a prominent suffragette. She noticed that many white suffragettes did not advocate for the same rights for women of color. She encouraged African Americans to educate themselves in order to be accepted by white society. Near the end of her life, she won a court case that ruled that segregated restaurants in Washington DC are unconstitutional.
- “And so, lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving, and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our desires will burst into glorious fruition ‘ere long.”
- “It is impossible for any white person in the United States, no matter how sympathetic and broad, to realize what life would mean to him if his incentive to effort were suddenly snatched away. To the lack of incentive to effort, which is the awful shadow under which we live, may be traced the wreck and ruin of score of colored youth.”
- “As a colored woman I may enter more than one white church in Washington without receiving that welcome which as a human being I have the right to expect in the sanctuary of God.”