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Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s “Mob Rules in New Orleans”


Ida B. Wells-Barnett was an African American journalist, abolitionist, and leader in a civil rights movement in the late 19th century. One of her notable publications named Mob Rules in New Orleans was issued in 1900 and paid attention to many acute problems so that many readers found it much compelling. Being a participant of an anti-lynching movement and owning inclinations for journalism, she felt compelled to report cases of multiple lynches, burnings, and mob attacks committed towards black people in New Orleans in the 1890s. The raised problems of injustice, violence, segregation and prejudice concerning the Afro-Americans were the center of Wells-Barnett’s book. Even though those disturbing events happened long ago, the issues they present still resonate with today’s society.

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One of the crucial reasons Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s writing is relevant these days concerns the inequity related to Afro-American folks in every community. The authoress started her book by describing an unbecoming scene of a public assault. She began by stating that three policemen, “observing two colored men sitting on doorsteps on Dryades Street, between Washington Avenue and 6th Streets, determined, without a shadow of authority, to arrest them” (Wells 6). One would inquire why they would do such a wicked deed as those men of color were not ruining any peace. The answer is simple: the policemen thought Afro-Americans were inferior, and they could do whatever they wished to them. While police officers were trying to accost them, one colored man, named Charles Robinson, shot one policeman and ran away. The problem mentioned is relevant up to these days. It must be raised worldwide to promote the notion of tolerance towards any race to eliminate any prejudices related to skin color.

Another critical question arises since the group of policemen, the people who should arrest only delinquents and oversee law and order, committed an unlawful act. However, the police officers themselves merely violated the law by shooting at the man of color for no reason, whereas he was trying to defend himself. This problem correlates to the current circumstances as sometimes in-charge individuals allow more than they are authorized. Moreover, justice tends to be on the authorized side rather than on the side of an unknown person. Thus, another problem refers to the rights of justice, which still has its roots in modern times.

It is necessary to note that two leading newspapers exerted to justify the policemen’s actions saying that two men of color were regarded as suspicious personas. Moreover, after the press released the news, people were concerned that a fugitive, Charles Robinson, would commit more crimes and united in mobs to search for him (Wells 9). Later, the news proclaimed Charles a desperado and offered a reward to the one who would bring the alleged criminal dead or alive (Wells 16). Observing the news, people commenced roaming the streets in search of Charles. They were angered, furious, and ready to beat, assault, or even kill every Negro in New Orleans. One of the victims was George Morris who saw the crowd approaching him with clubs, knives, and other weapons (Wells 16). Therefore, a reader can observe how one interracial incident became the reason every man of color was neglected in the city.


In conclusion, it seems reasonable to state that despite the date of Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s publication, the problems of equity, violence, and lynching correlate up to modern times. Contemporary society still sees colored folks as a threat due to long-biased prejudices. Therefore, this writing should be discussed in every school, college, or university to prevent the occurrence of such cases, eliminate racial discrimination, and instill a sense of equity.

Work Cited

Wells, Ida. Mob Rules in New Orleans. The Floating Press, 2013.

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