The Many Lives of Ida B. Wells: Autobiography, Historical Biography, and Documentary
Wells related her lifelong commitment to anti-lynching campaigns in an autobiography that historians and biographers have thoroughly exploited to reconstruct her persona. The woman’s life story has allowed them to point out the interweaving of personal and political motives behind her consistent engagement with racial issues. This article calls attention to biographical details that shed light on the woman’s character in a context of coercion. The posthumous publication of primary sources, including The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells (1995), and of a list of secondary sources allows for a comparative approach that spotlights different personality traits depending on the authors’ perception of Wells’ role in history as influenced by contemporary scholarship trends. The memory of Wells seems to arouse conflicting interpretations, which she was also victim of during her lifetime.
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