Ida B. Wells: The Black Woman Crusader Against White Knights

Ida B. Wells was born into slavery on July 16, 1862.  She was “freed” by presidential proclamation and executive order (the Emancipation Proclamation) issued by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862, during the American Civil War.

Ida B. Wells became a journalist, and her most famous writing is in her pamphlet, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law and All Its Phases.  Wells was the first person to extensively document lynchings, and dispelled the myth that lynchings were reserved for Black “criminals.”  Wells exposed lynching as a practice of white men, often inspired by the siren song of white women, to intimidate and oppress Black Americans who created economic and political competition for whites.  Think the destruction of the Black Wall Street in 1923, and the mass murder of its Black residents.

Wells’ work is noteworthy for its real-time reporting on the “incendiary propaganda about Black rape that was used to justify the practice” of lynching.

If the Black Church had saints, then Ida B. Wells would be part of that celestial lineup.

In my collection of poetry, The Black Feminine Mystique, there is a poem, one of my Almost Sonnets, dedicated to Ida B. Wels, entitled “Strange Fruit.”

She waged a just war against White knights,

This patron saint of the anti‑lynching crusade.

She wielded her pen like a crusader her sword,

Exposed emasculators who’d reduced Black men

To icons to be destroyed.

Self-proclaimed Christians hell‑bent on destroying this African Priapus,

This ancient Black God who made them feel inadequate.

They castrated him and crucified him on a tree,

Commemorated this day as The Day of the Rope.

She was Isis reincarnated, the devoted sister‑wife‑mother.

She attacked with the relentlessness of a warrior‑goddess,

Revealed that mostly innocent Black men

Were victims of this strange justice.

If slavery is America’s original sin,

Then America’s Eve falsely accused the snake of seduction.

She told this story again and again, until the myth had become a reality

In the popular White imagination.

This Women’s History Month, all women, but especially white women, should read Ida B. Wells’ Southern Horrors: Lynch Law and all its Phases.


About William Eric Waters, aka Easy Waters

Award-winning poet, playwright and writer. Author of three books of poetry, "Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass: Remembrance of Things Past and Present"; "Sometimes Blue Knights Wear Black Hats"; "The Black Feminine Mystique," and a novel, "Streets of Rage." All four books are available on
This entry was posted in Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass, crime, ezwwaters, Lest We Forget, Poetry, Politics, race, raising black boys, Religion, Slavery and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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