MAY 21, 1892
Crusading journalist Ida B. Wells published a column that exposed the widespread lynchings of Black men.
Her anti-lynching campaign came after a mob in Memphis killed three of her friends, Will Stewart, Tommie Moss and Calvin McDowell, who had opened a grocery store that competed with a white-owned store in Memphis. After guns were fired into their store, the trio defended themselves, only to be arrested.
A few days later, a mob of 75 men in black masks took the trio from the jail and killed them.
“Tell my people to go West,” Moss told his killers. “There is no justice for them here.”
Upset by Wells’ writings, a mob destroyed her presses and threatened to kill her if she ever published again. She left Memphis for Chicago, but she continued to expose lynchings, calling for national legislation to make lynching a crime. In 1898, she took her protest to the White House.
“Nowhere in the civilized world save the United States of America do men, possessing all civil and political power, go out in bands of 50 and 5,000 to hunt down, shoot, hang or burn to death a single individual, unarmed and absolutely powerless,” she wrote. “We refuse to believe this country, so powerful to defend its citizens abroad, is unable to protect its citizens at home.”
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, which opened in 2018, features a reflection space in her honor. In 2022,
Congress finally passed the anti-lynching bill she urged.