This traditional narrative, for all its tragedy, excluded the White males, White females, and black females who were also lynching victims and took for granted the dynamic part of White women in supporting or opposing mob violence. Moreover, Black women were completely absent in the mainstream lynching narrative (Logan, 1999). However, as this paper argues, Black women belonging to the middle class, headed by Ida B. Wells, became the most expressive and bold detractors of lynching.
The work of Ida Wells against lynching provokes a re-evaluation of the extraordinary influence of Black women on structured campaign against lynching. Ida’s revolutionary analysis of the politics of race and gender and her worldwide exposure crusade signified a radical deviation to the public role of Black women. It initiated the presence of feminization within American reform that oriented its critical tendencies into a more cultivated type of women’s position (Logan, 1999). The campaign of Black women against lynching by the 1920s, even though remained public, was influenced more powerfully by sexuality and gendered practices of women’s society, evangelicalism, charity, and the expression of motherhood and womanhood (Loewenberg & Bogin, 1976), all uniquely dissimilar from the prior campaign of Ida.
The lynchings of Will Stewart, Calvin McDowell, and Thomas Moss in 1892 were not an issue for their uncommonness: in 1892, hundreds of Blacks were murdered by furious mobs for suspected crimes against White people (Brundage, 1997, 295). The site of the lynchings in Tennessee was not noteworthy. seventeen Black people from Tennessee were lynched in 1892 and forty-six Blacks had died in a race disturbance in Memphis in 1866 (Brundage, 1997, 295). The three casualties took particular relevance mainly due to their influence on Ida Wells as a young writer. She was well acquainted with the three men.