Mary Church Terrell was an early civil rights activist who was born to former slave parents in 1863 in Memphis, Tennessee. I struggled to find any information regarding her religious affiliations, however from her article, What it Means to be Colored in the United States, it can be inferred that she was Christian. Both of Terrell’s parents were successful small business owners. Her affluent background provided her with unique opportunities that most African Americans did not possess the means to achieve. Her parents exemplified the importance of education and Terrell attended Oberlin College in Ohio. Her activism was sparked in 1892 in response to the lynching of Thomas Moss, a black friend of Terrrell who was lynched by white men because his business competed with theirs. This incident provoked her to take an active role in the anti-lynching campaign along with Ida B. Wells. While Wells’s work was centered on the unjust, mob mentality nature of the lynching of black men, Terrell dedicated her life work to the notion of racial uplift. This concept supported the belief that black people could contribute to the end of racial discrimination by advancing their position in society through education, work, and collective activism. Terrell believed that racial uplift could gain black’s the recognition and respect from their white counterparts, which was fundamental for the dissolution of racial discrimination. In 1896, she founded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). The official motto of the group was “lifting as we climb.” This echoed her sentiments that individual success among members of the black community would contribute to their collective rise in societal status. Terrell furthermore promoted women’s suffrage, as she believed that the right to vote would elevate black women’s societal status. She stated that she belonged to “the only group in this country that has two such huge obstacles to surmount… both race and sex.” Women constituted the focus of Terrell’s activist work due to their lowered position in society.
Ida B. Wells was born into slavery amidst the Civil War in 1862 in Mississippi. After losing both of her parents to yellow fever, she moved to Memphis in 1878. She was baptized in the methodist-episcopal church. Wells played a central role in initiating the anti-lynching campaign after one of her friends was unjustly lynched. She turned her attention to the fundamental issue of “white mob violence” in conjunction with the numerous unjust lynchings of black men that occurred throughout the country. She published her beliefs regarding racial inequality uncensored in a Memphis press. She received substantial backlash, including numerous threats for her articles. The threats became so bad that she was forced to move to Chicago in 1893. Wells traveled internationally in her career in order to shed light on the use of lynching to suppress black people socially and politically in the hopes of raising awareness to racial issues in the United States to foreign audiences. She furthermore openly confronted white woman for blatantly ignoring the issue of lynching. Ida B. Wells does not propose any concrete solutions to anti-black violence, but her courage to expose the issues of lynching and oppression allowed for a broad audience to view her perceptions.