Last week, the Equal Justice Initiative opened the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a “devastating, long overdue” tribute to 4,000 victims of lynching. Our nation’s grim history of racist extrajudicial killings, perpetrated primarily against black victims, has led the period from the early 1880s through the early 1930s to be called the “lynching era.”’
The memorial provides a powerful reminder that white supremacy and inequality in modern-day America have deep roots in our history. But it also reminds us of the crucial role of black female activists who, over a century, ago, were calling BS on this horrific practice.
Ida B. Wells was a pathbreaking writer, civil rights leader, and activist who used careful research methods and a mighty pen to document the practice of lynching and lead a crusade to end it. As Mariame Kaba of the NIA project writes, “No one did more to raise consciousness and to end systemic lynching in the U.S. than Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Born in 1862 to enslaved parents in Holly Springs, Mississippi...Wells wrote blistering editorials decrying the injustice of lynching; she published pamphlets on the topic and traveled overseas to lecture about the evils of extrajudicial killings.” When we press for an end to white supremacy and criminal justice reform, we stand on the shoulders of this giant.
All-of-us must honor the victims of lynching and the civil rights activist Ida B. Wells.
1 Donate to the campaign to erect a monument to honor Ida B. Wells2 Visit and like the Equal Justice Initiative’s Facebook page and watch their video about lynching in America. Share it with your friends.