They Say: Ida B. Novel Wells and Race Reconstruction

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James West Davidson recounts the original thirty zealous years of Ida B. Wells in this novel, along with her tale of the greater hardships encountered in the post-emancipation race in the United States. The breathtaking and sometimes tumultuous changes that engulfed the Southern part of America during the period when Wells was rising in Holy Springs were captured in this book by Davidson. He also provides a thorough look at the rise of progressive activists, the spread of education among African-American women, and the unpleasant challenges in the face of a culture steeped in social customs and sexism in the search for gender equality. The book will be analysed in this article. Ida B. Wells and the Reconstruction: "They Say" describes strategies of empowerment, agency, and citizenship. It will also explain the issues of gender, race, sexuality and class about the book.


Ida B. Wells was an African-American female who shaped the image of effectiveness and citizenship in America at the time of post reconstruction. Through the newspaper articles, essays and book she wrote he actively integrated the negotiations of race trials among the blacks and the whites. Her journals and diaries documented the personal struggles of a woman who defined her womanhood during the time of post-emancipation in the US. The African American elites defined citizenship as having equal rights to everyone both to Blacks and the Whites. The life of Wells is a reflection of how difficult it was for an African American individual to have citizenship and empowerment during the post-slavery times. Right from the start of the book, Wells is seen to have been shaped by firm clusters of religious beliefs and conviction which her father and mother taught to her while growing. She even sadly wrote the loss of her suit against the railroad companies, and she additionally wrote how devastating the racism was a problem to the African American people.

Strategies of Empowerment and Agency

During the reconstruction period at the reign of President Abraham Lincoln, the biggest problem that faced the US were the status of the ex-slaves and the call for freedom. The civil rights rebels were directed towards empowering the African American individuals to help them fight for their rights. The empowerment was meant to stop any future discriminations against the African race. In the book, there is a clear evident of how the life of Wells paralleled with that of African American ways in her efforts to gain empowerment and citizenship in the post-slavery American times. Strategies of empowerment were the fundamental way of fighting for the rights of equality in the country dominated by racial discriminations. There were fights against agencies that discriminated the African Americans. Wells is said to have sued the train that threw her out just because she was black. Even though she received a lot of criticism from the white society, she slowly influenced the Blacks in realizing their crying need for empowerment which made them start speaking against the injustices they received.

How Historical Figures Dealt With Issues of:

Gender and Sexuality

Wells during her time wrote articles such as “The Race Pride” and “Our Women” which showed that Wells was more and more focusing herself on the equality of the African American and the matters of prejudice. The historical figures spearheaded the voting rights for women and called for gender equality. Furthermore, during the 1800s the women’s alcohols temperance movement became a great wheel behind the suffrage of women. At the time, many suffrage leaders like Elizabeth Cady and Susan Anthony began to champion the black and gender equality. Many movements were formed which disheartened gender discriminations and emphasized on the need to respect a woman in the society. Strict battles were fought in quests of equal rights, and it became more significant when the Congress in its 15th Amendment did pass a rule for the black men to vote but excluded black women. This decision engendered resentment among the women activists such as Wells.

There was a push for the provision of voting rights of women. Well coached this viewpoint in the mission of “home protection” organizations (Davidson 21). Through this aspect, Wells managed to garner her big support with WCTU which later had a total of 250,000 members. She had a militant attitude in her writings which made her more noticed. Wells become ostracized due to her outspoken personality and blunt writings that discouraged gender discriminations by sexuality. During 1885-1887, Wells maintained her diary which describes her struggles as a professional woman. She notes her life as an independent woman who was committed to self-improvement, working, and uplift of the black races on sexuality and gender. In her records, she maintained instances of mob violence in the cases where the white men mob-lynched black men.

The sexual orientation of the blacks was subjected to discriminations and is persisted to the workplaces. Employee harassment and denial of benefits resulting for the sexuality of an individual was a primary problem. The prejudices that arose from sexuality made activists to formulate reforms and formed progressive movements, and as Davidson argues, these movements drew “ a distinct cluster to progress as a society, the commitment to individualism had to be tempered with an appreciation of our social bonds” (Davidson 26). Sexuality was a social problem, and the ideologies in the social movements were directed at eliminating this problem.

Class and Racism

Excessive racism existed basing on the class that an individual belonged. There were majorly three classes in the US, first, the middle and the lower classes. The lower class mostly consisted of the African American slaves. Wells was born in a slave family which made her experience discrimination. As the American nation approached the 20th century, Wells noticed that the wave of the racial injustices which required attention and needed to be addressed in a more new and transparent manner. To fight the ailment of racial discrimination that had deeper roots and taken its place in the American society, outright protests and self-defense were thought to be the right way to address the issue. “The central to the story is an incident in which three blacks are executed by a mob for an incident that may have been a setup” (Davidson, 14). The birth of the Civil Rights Movement was steered by figures such as Martin Luther King. These acts challenged the nation’s moralistic Victorian attitudes during the time and the firm stance taken by Wells, and another icon who fought against racism pitted them to be the most formidable African American leaders who greatly influenced anti-racism.

Lynching had become a problematic act done against the blacks which pushed Wells to start her crusade against lynching and racial discrimination. Three wells friends were lynched to death. Wells delivered the sobering message of racial violence to Great Britain in her hopes to sway the public opinions concerning the problem which had plagued the American society. The lynching of black women and men seemed to be a normal aspect among the whites especially those from the South and this act culminated to 161 deaths in 1892 reaching its peak point. In this brutal act encompassed an African-American businessman who was a friend of Wells being killed just because his grocery store business was bigger that of his competitor.

The African American were intimidated, and this made the historical figures activists to mobilize and protest against the discriminations and cruelty of life faced. As Davidson reports “For reporting on it and questioning the validity of rape charges in many of the lynching across the South, Wells has to flee death threats in Memphis.” The lynching of the businessman made more than 6,000 African American residents to vacate the place, and numerous other did boycott the businesses that were run by the whites. Wells was even exiled due to her stun stands of calls to abolish racism in the US. There were unfair injustices done to the blacks in trials and prosecutions. Wells was thrown out of the train just because he was black. Wells, therefore, devoted herself to her career of journalism to expose the crimes and injustices done to the blacks through writing and publishing articles at Memphis that highlighted the issues.


The fight for the Black Civil Rights has been an ongoing process in the history of the American. Many movements were formed by activists that called for equality of the races. Wells is an icon that is greatly remembered for her cry and the dying need for equality, citizenship, and abolishment of racial discriminations which was done to the blacks. The blacks were treated badly, and slavery had worsened things. The book “They Say”: Ida B. Wells and the Reconstruction of Race provides a detailed life history of Wells and the other historical figures that have seen the Blacks have freedom in the American society.

Work Cited

Davidson, James West. They Say Ida B. Wells and the Reconstruction of Race. Oxford University Press, 2007. ISBN

October 25, 2022
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