Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells were both prolific African American activists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, both advocating for nonviolence, justice, and empowerment of underrepresented groups. Ida B. Wells was led by her strong (Christian) religious beliefs, instilled by her devout parents, towards racial uplift (the belief that blacks would help end racial discrimination through self and community advancement). Her involvement in the anti-lynching campaign, black women’s movement, and reform of American policy was held closely tied to her religious theology. For Wells, political and social justice was not just based on civil rights, but on Christian values and identity. In comparison, Mary Church Terrell championed women’s suffrage and racial equality, joining Ida B. Wells in the anti-lynching campaign and racial uplift. However, her work focused mostly on lifting others up on the journey, especially women, as she co-founded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) alongside Ida B. Wells to help advance her agenda. She was also raised in a Christian household, guiding her beliefs and approaches to finding justice.
Each of them proposed solutions and ideas to prevent injustice. However, Ida B. Wells was more engaged with race relations while Terrell focused heavily on gender (both black and white women). In addition, Wells went about fighting for the rights of colored people in a more militant way than organized, receiving a lot more threats of violence and hate. Yet, both made impact in courageous ways that helped push forward justice and rights for people of color and women. Ultimately, they wanted to fix broken systems and uplift people to create change and lasting impact on America.
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
– Ida. B Wells