November 16, 2018

Media and Violence


1) Resistance: Ida Wells

Ida Wells

Ida Wells: Biography

  • Born into slavery; family became middle class
  • Gendered expectations of "ladies"
  • Challenged segregation
  • Became part-owner of Memphis newspaper

Ida Wells: Radicalization

1892 Lynching in Memphis

Editorial criticism of lynching


Ida Wells:

Attributes as effective messenger:

African American: access to information, motive to combat lynching

Woman: credibly question "rape" narrative

Middle-class "Lady": respectable status, language, deportment

Journalist: access to media, skilled in communication, national network

"Credentials": approval from Frederick Douglass

Ida Wells: Diagnostic Frames

Lynching not about sexual threat from black men

  • Sexual relations between black men and white women are (often) consensual
  • White hypocrisy with assault of black women
  • Minority of lynching events have rape accusation
  • Victims of lynching not matching the narrative

Ida Wells: Kinds of Evidence

Lynching not about sexual threat from black men

  • consensual: white women admitting this; white news accounts
  • hypocrisy: stories from African American community
  • rape accusations: statistics on lynchings
  • victims: statistics on lynchings

Ida Wells: Diagnostic Frames

Lynching about racial oppression

  • Connection between lynching and segregation
  • "Moral depravity" cannot be worse with emancipation
  • Lynching for voting first (Birth of a Nation)
  • Victims of lynching often not guilty of real crimes
  • White legal system can easily convict
  • White domination of government, but still lawless
  • lynching is degradation of white morality

Ida Wells: Diagnostic Frames

Lynching threat to law and order/ civilization

Ida Wells: Strategy

Resonant Frames

  • What kinds of messages would work with different audiences?
  • What kinds of evidence would be most effective?

Ida Wells: Strategy

New Narratives

  • Use of white press against itself
  • Use of first-hand experience
  • Hiring private investigators

Ida Wells: Strategy

Gaining Access

  • Played up middle-class sensibilities
  • "Forced" to address scandalous issues of lynching, rape
  • Portrayed herself as a political novice
  • Worked with male allies (e.g. Charles Aked, Frederick Douglass)
  • Travel to the UK

Ida Wells: Strategy

Kinds of activism

  • Publish in newspapers
  • Hold lecture series
  • Pamphlets
  • Travel to the UK
  • Network with publishers, politicians

Ida Wells: Strategy


  • UK audiences condemn American lynching
  • US audiences concerned about reputation
  • Southern papers irate