Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

March 19, 1910

On March 19, 1910, the Chicago Defender published a letter to the editors from journalist and activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett (of 3234 Rhodes Ave). Wells-Barnett referenced a recent Defender article regarding a street car advertisement for a cemetery that only sold lots to white people. “Every one seems indignant and feels that something should be done, but no one seems to know just what may be done to have the objectionable sign removed,” she wrote. “In the disorganized condition in which we stand to-day, we could not bring pressure enough to bear perhaps to have those objectionable signs removed, but if we could count on the entire race for moral and financial support unitedly, the mayor, the city council, the alderman of the ward, would find a way to have these signs removed. Better still, every Negro in the Second ward would remember that the best way to get somebody in the city council to do the race’s work, is to put a member of the race there to do it for them, and they would not rest until they did it.” Wells-Barnett encouraged black Chicagoans to join the Original Rights Society, a recently founded (and short-lived) interracial civil rights organization based in New York. “If the Negroes would join the Original Rights Society, they would have their organization for themselves, and they would have the moral and active support of others in the movement,” she argued. “They are fighting for the original rights of every American citizen, and that means us, too.” Wells-Barnett’s letter also included a thinly veiled criticism of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which she had helped found the prior year. The Original Rights Society “is the only fair and square invitation the Negro has had from any white organization to join them on equal terms, and I repeat, that for this reason if for no other, we should accept” (click to view article PDF).

On Ida B. Wells’s life and legacy, see Paula Giddings, Ida: A Sword among Lions; Mia Bay, To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells; and “Ida B. Wells: Civil Rights Pioneer” at

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