In 1892 Ida B. Wells, a fiery young African American woman from Tennessee, launched a fearless crusade against lynching. Wells pointed out that greed, not just racial prejudice, was often behind these brutal acts



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Striving for Equality – Obstacles and Successes

US History/Napp Name: _________________
In 1892 Ida B. Wells, a fiery young African American woman from Tennessee, launched a fearless crusade against lynching. Wells pointed out that greed, not just racial prejudice, was often behind these brutal acts. Writing in the Memphis Free Speech newspaper, she reported that three African American grocers lynched in Memphis had been guilty of nothing more than competing successfully against white grocers.


A mob destroyed the press that printed the
Memphis Free Speech and drove Wells out of town, but she settled in Chicago and continued her campaign. Although Congress rejected an anti-lynching bill, the number of lynchings decreased significantly in the 1900s due in great part to the efforts of activists such as Wells.
Some African American leaders like Wells chose the path of protest, but others recommended different solutions to discrimination. One such person was the influential educator Booker T. Washington. He proposed that African Americans concentrate on achieving economic goals rather than legal or political ones. In 1895, he summed up his views in a speech before a mostly white audience at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta. Known as the Atlanta Compromise, the address came amid increasing acts of discrimination against African Americans. Washington urged his fellow African Americans to postpone the fight for civil rights and instead concentrate on preparing themselves educationally and vocationally for full equality.
The Atlanta Compromise speech provoked a strong challenge from W.E.B. Du Bois, the leader of a new generation of African American activists born after the Civil War. Du Bois pointed out in his 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk that white Southerners continued to strip African Americans of their civil rights. This was true in spite of the progress African Americans were making in education and vocational training. They could regain that lost ground and achieve full equality, Du Bois argued, only by demanding their rights. Du Bois was particularly concerned with protecting and exercising voting rights. In the years that followed, many African Americans worked to win the vote and end discrimination.



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