Ida B. Wells-Barnett told a story in the preface of her autobiography about a young Black girl that asked Wells-Barnett to inform her about the anti-lynching movement Wells-Barnett started in 1892.
The young girl explained she was in a discussion about the heroine Joan of Arc and was asked if she knew a woman with the same strength of character. The young girl named Ida B. Wells-Barnett, but the discussion leader asked the young girl why Wells-Barnett deserved the distinction.
The young girl admitted to Wells-Barnett, “I couldn’t tell them why I thought so. I heard you mentioned so often by that name, so I gave it. I was dreadfully embarrassed…Please tell me what you did so the next time…I can give an intelligent answer.”
This encounter in 1928 inspired Wells-Barnett to write her autobiography. Wells-Barnett stated the Black youth had Frederick Douglass’ account of slavery, but they didn’t have an account of the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. She described that period as the time of the KKK, ballot-box stuffing, and the wholesale murder of Blacks who tried to exercise their newfound rights.
Wells-Barnett said the gallant fight and bravery of Blacks to maintain their newborn rights in the South, with little protection from the government which gave them these rights and no previous training in citizenship or politics, is a story which would fire the race pride of all our young people if it had only been written down. The history of this entire period which reflected glory on the race should be known. Yet most of it is buried in oblivion and only the southern White man’s misrepresentations are in public libraries and college textbooks.