Wells was in working on a story in Natchez, Mississippi, when word reached her that her friend Tom Moss, the father of her goddaughter, had been lynched.
Until that time, Wells, like most other people, [believed] that there were usually two reasons why a black man was lynched — because he had raped a white woman or killed a white man. Moss's only crime, however, was successfully competing with a white grocer, and for this he and his partners were murdered. Wells then came to the realization that lynchings were not being used to weed out criminals but to enforce white supremacy.
So, in a series of scathing editorials in Free Speech, she urged African Americans to boycott Memphis's new streetcar line and move out west if possible [to a place she wound up investigating on their behalf: Oklahoma]
African Americans heeded Wells's pleas and began leaving Memphis by the hundreds. Two pastors of large black churches took their entire congregations to Oklahoma, and others soon followed. Those who stayed behind boycotted white businesses, creating financial hardships for commercial establishments as well as for the public transportation system. The city's papers attempted to dissuade blacks from leaving by reporting on the hostile American Indians and dangerous diseases awaiting them out west. To counter their claims, Wells spent three weeks traveling in Oklahoma. Upon her return she published a firsthand account of the actual conditions.
Fast becoming a target for angry white men and women, she was advised by friends to ease up on her [anti-lynching] editorials. Instead, Wells decided to carry a pistol.
"[I had] already determined to sell my life as dearly as possible if attacked," she later recalled. "I felt if I could take one lyncher with me, this would even up the score a little bit."
Wells spent two months after the murders of Moss and his partners investigating other lynchings across the South. Traveling from Texas to Virginia, she interviewed both whites and blacks to discern truth from rumor. As Margaret Truman wrote in Women of Courage, "To call this dangerous work is an understatement. Imagine a lone black woman in some small town in Alabama or Mississippi, asking questions that no one wanted to answer about a crime that half the whites in the town had committed." During the course of her investigation, Wells learned that rape was far from being the only crime lodged against victims of lynch mobs. Indeed, men had been lynched for "being saucy." In Mississippi, one victim of a lynch mob was accused of raping a seven-year-old girl. Wells discovered that the real story was that an adult white woman had gone to a black man's cabin of her own accord. The woman's father then led the lynch mob to safeguard his daughter's reputation.
On May 25, 1892, two months after Moss's death, an article appearing in Free Speech stated that "nobody in this section believes the old thread-bare lie that Negro men assault white women. If Southern white men are not careful they will over-reach themselves and a conclusion will be reached which will be very damaging to the moral reputation of their women." Many white citizens of Memphis did not appreciate the implication that some of their women might prefer the company of black men, and the editor of the newspaper declared that the "black wretch who had written that foul lie should be tied to a stake at the corner of Main and Madison Streets, a pair of tailor's shears used on him, and he should then be burned at the stake."
Ida B didn't stop when she got married. And she only paused to give birth to four children. Her husband even sent her to investigate a lynching on his behalf.
Ida B Wells-Barnett was no joke.
Ida B Well-Barnett, post marriage, was a black suffragette that did battle with white suffragettes. And she helped women get the vote in Illinois before all women got the vote in 1920 by Supreme Court Decree.