Heralded as a landmark achievement upon publication, Ida: A Sword Among Lions is a sweeping narrative about a country and a crusader embroiled in the struggle against lynching—a practice that imperiled not only the lives of black men and women, but also a nation based on law and riven by race.
At the center of the national drama is Ida B. Wells (1862-1931). Born to slaves in Mississippi, Wells began her activist career by refusing to leave a first-class ladies' car on a Memphis railway and rose to lead the nation's first campaign against lynching. For Wells, the key to the rise in violence was embedded in attitudes not only about black men, but also about women and sexuality. Her independent perspective and percussive personality gained her encomiums as a hero—as well as aspersions on her character and threats of death. Exiled from the South by 1892, Wells subsequently took her campaign across the country and throughout the British Isles before she married and settled in Chicago. There she continued her activism as a journalist, suffragist, and independent candidate in the rough-and-tumble world of the Windy City's politics.
With meticulous research and vivid rendering of her subject, Giddings also provides compelling portraits of twentieth-century progressive luminaries, blacks and whites who worked with Wells during some of the most tumultuous periods in American history. In this groundbreaking work, Paula J. Giddings brings to life the irrepressible personality of Ida B. Wells and gives the visionary reformer her due.
On view Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow, tells of the central role played by African Americans in advocating for their rights. Marking the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the exhibition is organized chronologically from the end of the Civil War to the end of World War I. The voices of citizens responding to the challenge of citizenship are as relevant today as when first spoken, whether that message was delivered in the 19th century or the 21st.