(1893) Ida B. Wells, “Lynch Law In All Its Phases,”
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ida B. Wells emerged in the 1890s as the leading voice against the lynching of African Americans following the violent lynching of three of her friends. Beginning with an editorial in newspaper she owned, Memphis Free Speech in 1892 shortly after their deaths, she organized an international campaign that lead to two speaking tours in England in 1893 and 1894. The speech she gave on the subject at Bostons Tremont Temple on February 13, 1893 and which was originally published in Our Day magazine in May 1893, appears below.
I am before the American people to day through no inclination of my own, but because of a deep seated conviction that the country at large does not know the extent to which lynch law prevails in parts of the Republic nor the conditions which force into exile those who speak the truth. I cannot believe that the apathy and indifference which so largely obtains regarding mob rule is other than the result of ignorance of the true situation. And yet, the observing and thoughtful must know that in one section, at least, of our common country, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, means a government by the mob; where the land of the free and home of the brave means a land of lawlessness, murder and outrage; and where liberty of speech means the license of might to destroy the business and drive from home those who exercise this privilege contrary to the will of the mob. Repeated attacks on the life, liberty and happiness of any citizen or class of citizens are attacks on distinctive American institutions; such attacks imperiling as they do the foundation of government, law and order, merit the thoughtful consideration of far sighted Americans; not from a standpoint of sentiment, not even so much from a standpoint of justice to a weak race, as from a desire to preserve our institutions. The race problem or negro question, as it has been called, has been