I grabbed this book off the shelf of my school’s library because I don’t know enough about Ida B. Wells. Then I saw that the writer, Todd Steven Burroughs, is an independent scholar based in Newark and that’s where I live so I was like ok obviously going to get this.
Warrior Princess is a good introduction to Wells. It follows her life and her legacy long after. Wells was born into slavery and died in 1931. She had to grow up fast and became a teacher right away. Eventually she moved around and then moved onto the journalism she’s famous for.
Her focus on lynching began in Memphis, Tennessee in 1982. There was one situation where three black men were lynched after defending a young black kid against a young white kid’s dad. Before the lynching, mad black people got arrested and shot at and chased away. Because they are outnumbered and banned from getting ammunition and not protected by the law, Wells writes that the only solution was for black people to leave. Move. Get away. And a lot of people did. But you do have to wonder about those who didn’t or couldn’t leave.
Still, writing about this and other lynchings is radical because it’s about organizing minds. Wells was writing for black magazines and newspapers calling attention not just to its horror but to its psychology. The insecurity, the ego, the violence. The point of lynchings is to insight fear. So reporting on it is to formally respond with ideas about what’s next. That Wells wasn’t given enough credit by the NAACP or Frederick Douglass or Susan B. Anthony shows how disruptive her work really was.
Best line: Her diary shows a woman in search of a man she could respect and love. -Todd Steven Burroughs p 16