Ida B. Wells, Lynching, and the Burning of Black Bodies
My Women’s History course is progressing nicely. We are currently exploring the experiences of women in the post-Civil War era with much of our attention focused on the split over the wording of the 15th Amendment between the National Women’s Suffrage Association and American Women’s Suffrage Association. We looked at Susan B. Anthony’s famous New York trial over her decision to vote in the 1872 presidential election based on the "New Departure" theory along with the 1876 Supreme Court case of Minor v. Happersett.
Today we examined the experiences of black women during Reconstruction and into the Jim Crow era with a focus on the exposes written by Ida B. Wells on lynchings in the South. We read a short selection from her autobiography which describes her introduction to the horrors of lynchings and the realization that many of these cases involved accusations of black men raping white women. Wells found it ironic that white men were so concerned about interracial sexual conflict given the history of sexual relations between the slave owner and female slave. We discussed the difficulty, which Wells references, for white men to acknowledge that white women may have been sexually attracted to black men and what that meant in a Jim Crow society. It was a very interesting discussion and one that I hope we can continue tomorrow. What prompted this post, however, is a question that one of my students asked which I could not answer satisfactorily. She asked why so many lynchings ended with the burning of the body. Can anyone help? I’ve looked through a few sources, including Fitz Brundage’s study, but I am not having any luck.
[I should note that the above image was taken in Omaha, Nebraska.]