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Ida B. Wells

In: Historical Events

Submitted By mikepow
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Mike powers
Justification of Documents Building Constituencies – attracting support and supporters, moving people to act, increasing the commitment and involvement of existing supporters.

The reason I chose the 20 primary sources that I did was because I felt they represented a good timeline of how constituencies were formed from 1890-1960. These documents I chose reflect both the variety and struggle specific groups and individuals faced throughout the time period. Beginning with Ida B. Wells in the 1890, and ending with the struggles the NAACP faced in the 1950’s, the ability to build support was often met with the challenges of racism and oppression. No other person exemplified this struggle more so then Ida B. Wells. Even though Ida enjoyed a substantial following through her writings of books, and speech making, she still faced threats to her and was even exiled and forced to leave the United States, and go to England. Although dealt this major setback in her forced move to England, Ida. B. did not become discouraged and continued her work in fighting for equality for blacks in the South. In her writing of the Red Record, and Southern Horrors, Ida was able to capture the horrific climate lynching in the South. Because of this work, Ida transformed many peoples perception of the South where before her work many believed that almost all types of oppression ended with the conclusion of the Civil War. As a result of this shift in public opinion, Ida began receiving substantial funding from not only whites in the North, but also from England; whom the South depended on heavily because of their trade relations. Through these efforts, Ida was responsible for starting groups such as the anti-lynching Bureau, and the NAACP. These organizations that were formed in large part because of Ida B. Wells can be judged as perhaps the biggest reason why lynching in the south declined in the south during the beginning of 20th century. One group that I found a lot of documents on was the NAACP. Formed in 1909, the NAACP strived to improve the political, educational, and economic climate of blacks in all parts of the country. One way the NAACP became as influential as they would become in middle of the 20th century was by strengthening their constituency. They achieved this aim by getting their message out through forums and writing to public officials. Through their outspokenness, the NAACP was able to implement change in regards to civil rights for blacks as never seen before. One document that illustrates how the NAACP was able to influence public agenda can be seen in a letter written by Herbert J. Seligmann, to Mary B. Talbert and Butler Wilson which outlines strategies to strengthen their support of the Dryer Anti-Lynching bill. As this document shows, the NAACP was extremely successful in organizing local grass- roots committee’s which both publicized controversial topics that otherwise wouldn’t have been discussed; and placing pressure on politicians to progress civil rights issues. Another example of how the NAACP was able to build a strong constituency using the public forum, was through the newspapers. In the Ne York Times advertisement “Shame of America”, the advertisement calls upon all white Northerners to again support the anti-;lynching Dryer bill; a piece of legislation that became instrumental in eventually ending all types of lynching’s on the South. As the NAACP began to build momentum, and build more constituents during the 1920’s and 30’s, more and more blacks began to speak out against “Jim Crow” abuses during the 1950’s which helped enhance constituents and group membership. Once again because of the enlarged number of people willing to speak out, newspapers maintained paramount in building constituencies. Newspapers such as the Cleveland Gazette and the Montgomery Adviser successfully highlighted the injustices of “Jim Crow” laws, particularly in public transportation. In an op-ed in the Cleveland Gazette, a black man last named Smith describes how he and his brother were made to enter street cars from the “front” of the bus, and where vacant seats were still prohibited to seat in because they were used only for whites. The fact that a black man had the ability to write an op-ed in a paper was perhaps one of the biggest reasons an influx of blacks were willing to get involved on voicing their opinion. Because of this platform some newspapers gave blacks, first hand accounts could be expressed which often lead to people becoming stirred into action. Another way newspaper’s played an important role in strengthening constituents was by covering protests such as the Montgomery Adviser. In a document I chose, the newspaper covered a protest where 5,000 blacks gathered in a Baptist church to continue their protest against the Montgomery busing system. Although the article was mostly a straight forward news article, with little opinion, the result of the news story being in the paper let other blacks know that a protest was still happening. The 20 Primary documents I chose to select I believe encompasses a wide range of how constituents were built beginning in 1890, and ending around 1960. From influential individuals like Ida B. Wells, to powerful organizations such as the NAACP, each contribution was made proved to be pivotal in combating Southern oppression.

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