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Date: Fri, 31 Dec 1999 09:36:39 -0500
Message-Id: <199912311436.JAA11363@lists.tao.ca>
From: Art McGee <amcgee@igc.org>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Historical Document: The Reason Why
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Introduction to The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World's Columbian Exposition, by Ida B. Wells (Chicago: 1893)

The Black Radical Congress list
31 December 1999

Location: http://womhist.binghamton.edu/ibw/doc20.htm


The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World's Columbian Exposition is the 81-page masterpiece published and largely written by Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) in 1893. The pamphlet consists of six chapters, with portions written by such notable individuals as the antislavery giant Frederick Douglass, journalist and editor I. Garland Penn, and Frederick L. Barnett, whom Wells would marry in 1895. Wells had originally planned to publish the pamphlet in English, French, German, and Spanish; however, financial constraints limited her to publication of the pamphlet in English, with the preface also translated into French and German. A detailed, impassioned account of discrimination against blacks in the post-Reconstruction years, The Reason Why was published with $500 that Wells raised by speaking at Chicago's black churches.

The radical stance of Wells's pamphlet can be seen in the responses to it. Many black newpaper editors around the nation condemned it, predicting that it would do more harm than good. From their perspective, rather than protesting against discrimination and Southern lynch law, African Americans would advance their cause better by attending the Exposition. They would thereby show vistors (native and foreign alike) how the African American community had progressed since Emancipation twenty-eight years before. But Wells, having just returned from a lecture tour in England, felt it important to inform Americans of the terrors of Lynch law. Historian Ann Massa has termed the pamphlet a "militant black symposium." Wells's pamphlet told the bloody truth about lynching, taking advantage of the opportunity presented by the Exposition to bring the issue to the attention of visitors.

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