Black History Of Journalism

Angry White Mobs Destroyed Black Offices


From Markus Winkler/ Unsplash

Deontae Roach, Reporter | Writer | Editor


Cihak and Zima, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, ca. 1893-1894. University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center


“Did you know?”

“Did you know that there’s a long and rich history of Black Journalism in this country, but there are about 25 Black owned papers from the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds that have no remaining copies and did you know that the reason for that is usually because the newspaper offices were destroyed by angry white mobs? Did you know? Did you know?” asked repeatedly by Amber Ruffin on her late night show, The Amber Ruffin Show.






Stepping Into History

To evaluate more on the topic, I’d like to discuss on the topic of a specific person who actually experienced this in the history of Journalism. Ida B, Wells- Barnett. Approximately 130 years ago,  In May, 1982, a large white mob attacked and destroyed Black Journalist Ida B. Wells newspaper office. They even threatened to cause serious bodily harm to the 30-year-old woman if she returned to Memphis, Tennessee from Philadelphia.

Ms. Wells was also a local school teacher, editor, and co-owner of The Free Speech and Headlight newspaper. A few months prior to the burning of her office, three African-American men were lynched in Memphis. Their deaths inspired local journalist and activist Ms. Wells to examine the frequency of such unjust crimes. 

In her findings, she discovered that many African-American victims of lynching were killed due to minor offenses, such as failing to pay debts, public drunkenness, engaging in consensual romance, or challenging white economic dominance. This was the truth, but from the point of view of the public, this was covered up with the deception that those actions were the “white manhood’s appropriate response to the rape of white women by Black men.”

Ms. Wells sought to rewrite this narrative. “Nobody in this section of the country,” she wrote, “believes the old threadbare lie that Negro men rape white women.” The white newspapers in Memphis denounced the editorial by the black reporter, calling her a “Black scoundrel”. While away in Philadelphia, large white mobs burned her establishment and sent threatening messages to her with violence if she ever returned to the city.

A grove on the Memorial site is named in her honor. Located in Alabama.

She moved to Chicago and remained a prominent activist against racial injustice. Throughout her life, she challenged racial terror and ensured that history would not be lost. Her work is the basis for a report released by the EJI report, Lynching in America.