Ida B. Wells-Barnett rose to prominence in the 1890s, bringing international attention to the lynching of Black Americans in the South. After three of her friends were lynched in 1892, Wells became one of the most vocal anti-lynching activists in history.
Calvin McDowell, Thomas Moss, and Henry Stewart owned a local grocery store in Memphis, TN known as the People’s Grocery. Their economic success angered the white owners of a store across the street. On March 9, a group of white men gathered to confront McDowell, Moss, and Stewart. During the scuffle that followed, several of the white men received injuries and authorities arrested the three black business owners. A white mob subsequently broke into the jail, captured McDowell, Moss, and Stewart, and lynched them.
Incensed by the murder of her friends, Wells launched an extensive investigation into lynching. She published a pamphlet in 1892 titled Southern Horrors which detailed her findings. Her reporting highlighted the stories of lynching victims that challenged white authority or were able to successfully compete with whites in business or politics. As a result of her outspokenness, a mob destroyed her office at the local newspaper and threatened to kill her. She fled Memphis determined to continue her campaign to raise awareness about lynching. Wells took her efforts to England and established the British Anti-Lynching Society.