Susan B. Anthony Champions Ida B. Wells
In 1895, Susan B. Anthony went out for the day instructing her (white)
stenographer to help her guest, journalist Ida B. Wells, to catch up on her
correspondence. When Susan returned, the journalist was doing her own typing
while the stenographer sat idle. Asked why she was not helping Wells, the white
woman responded with a racial slur.
On the spot, Susan fired her. Losing this employee came at quite a cost
to Susan, who had hired the stenographer to help handle an oppressive mountain
Ida B. Wells was one of the most famous black women of the late
19th century. Three years before visiting Anthony, she owned a press
in Memphis, TN. There the lynching of three friends jolted her into activism. The black men started a grocery across the street from awhite man’s grocery, cutting into the latter’s profits. A mob of whites trashed the blacks’ store and, in the melee, three white men suffered injuries. In short order, the mob jailed and lynched the black grocers.
After that, Wells wrote Lynch Laws in Georgia, showing that,
contrary to the popular belief, lynching was not reserved for black criminals.
Instead, her investigative reports showed, it was used to terrorize and subdue
African-Americans who threatened the economic and political clout of whites.
Her paper urged black townspeople to leave Memphis, prompting 6,000 people to do
so. Soon, she experienced death threats and the destruction of her office and
press. After she moved to Chicago, her stories received widespread coverage in
other black-owned presses nationwide. She never stopped fighting for justice
for African-Americans and women, and founded several national organizations.
Some statements by Susan B. Anthony have been interpreted as racist.
However, Susan’s treatment of Ida B. Wells, as well as Susan’s early career as an abolitionist, give some evidence to the contrary.