Ida B. Wells

The Success of Ida B. Wells

"One had better die fighting against injustice than die like
a dog or a rat in a trap."

- Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells was an important figure in Black American
History. She was born a slave in Mississippi in 1862.
Wells was able to gain an education and, later, became a
journalist for various Negro papers. Through her writing,
she was able to attack issues dealing with discrimination
against African-American people. Ida B. Wells became an
international activist for African-American rights when she
informed the English people about lynching in America. She
became a well-known lecturer, activist, and organizer in
American and in England. Wells established the Negro
Fellowship League, the Ida B. Wells Women?s Club, the
National Association of Colored Women and was extremely
involved in other organizations for African-American
advancement.
There were a few advantageous elements that helped
Wells? success in her activist efforts. One being that
gender relations, of that time, were honorable within the
African-American community. Another advantage for Ida B.

2
Wells was her biological sex. Ida B. Wells fought hard in
her effort to secure America as a safe environment for
Blacks, but she managed to accomplish a remarkable amount of
her efforts due to various gender and sex related assets
which were in her favor.
One advantage Ida B. Wells was fortunate to claim was
that gender relations in the Black community were very
favorable. Due to the strenuous labor male and female
African-Americans had to endure during slavery, neither sex
proclaimed its opposite inferior and, therefore, Ida B.
Wells was able to make huge leaps within the
African-American community. For instance, Wells was able to
become an outstanding journalist, become editor and co-owner
of a Black newspaper, and Black men did not object to her
leadership in these occupations. Black men respected and
honored her work in the advancement of African-Americans,
instead of envying a woman for accomplishing these essential
tasks before a male exhibited her achievements. Black men,
unlike Whites of the time, were able to see past Wells? sex
and support the work that she accomplished for all
African-Americans.
Another aspect of this time period which proved to be
advantageous for Wells was the fact that she was female.
White America was not nearly as threatened by Black females
as the prejudiced fear Whites experienced of Black men.
Whites perceived Black men to be carnal, exceedingly virile
3
and dangerous to the White society. More successful Black
men were lynched than successful Black women. Black women
were not seen as a direct threat of the power roles in
society, therefore Wells was able to take many more risks
than any African-American male in her efforts to end the
lynchings and discrimination of Blacks. White males also
devalued Ida B. Wells? work, because she was female. White
men found it difficult to believe that a woman could
accomplish very much, because of the way they perceived
women to be inferior beings. These prejudiced thoughts
actually helped Wells by giving her more space for progress
in her fight to end discrimination of African-Americans.
Being female also helped Wells identify with the White
community. She had the ability to fit into the
male-dominated America that still exists today. Wells was
able to ascertain the identity of a White female by dressing
and acting "ladylike". Wells used class and gender for her
benefit. She maintained the stance of being educated,
attractive, and upper-class. This also made her seem as
less of a threat to the White America that believed
African-Americans were more like animals than human beings
and that White females were always under the control of
White males.
Although Ida B. Wells had gender relations and her
biological sex working on her side, she still had to face
the greatest evil of that time in American history. She had
4
to fight against one of the most hostile forms of prejudice
that has ever existed in this country. Ida B. Wells was a
woman who dramatically altered race relations in our country
and should be honored and respected as a phenomenal civil
rights activist. She kept hope alive in the
African-American history and motivated others to work just
as hard as she to guarantee a safe environment for all
Americans.