The four historic works in this collection, taken together, paint a picture in full of Wells-Barnett's gifts. Writer, activist, editor, analyst, statistician, orator, advocate, essayist—she was a rare talent and a force who altered the trajectory of America.
Born a slave in Mississippi, Ida B. Wells was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. As she worked as a teacher and pursued a college education in Tennessee, however, Wells experienced a country that was in no way keeping that proclaimed promise to its former slaves. Lynching and terrorism had replaced the chains of slavery, and America's new Black citizens had little actual access to the freedom and justice afforded their white neighbors. She shined a bright light on the core instrument of white terror – lynching – and took on the prevalent incendiary propaganda about Black rape. When she called out this “thread-bare lie” as editor of the Memphis newspaper, The Free Speech, she barely escaped lynching herself. From New York and Chicago, Wells published relentlessly on lynching and white terror, gave lectures, corresponded with other influential voices, helped found the NAACP — and for a lifetime lifted silenced voices in pursuit of her nation’s promise of equal justice.
The chosen texts, the new design, the chilling illustrations, and the powerful forward together make this collection a moving introduction to — and celebration of — the work of Ida B. Wells-Barnett.