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Public Pragmatism: Jane Addams and Ida B. Wells on Lynching
Journal of Speculative Philosophy (2005)
  • Maurice Hamington, Portland State University
While Jane Addams's work at Hull-House and her national efforts directed toward peace and suffrage have received a great deal of attention, her writing on matters of race are less often considered. When Addams's analysis of race is discussed, the reviews are often mixed. Addams, like many important theorists, was simultaneously ahead of her time and very much of her time. While this paper will not address her overall philosophy of race and diversity, it will discuss a largely forgotten public exchange between Addams and the well-known antilynching activist, Ida B. Wells. Addams wrote an antilynching piece for the New York Independent in January 1901 and by May of the same year, Wells authored a response that applauded many of Addams's contentions but also pointed out a major flaw: the presumed criminal acts of black men that prompted the lynching. I will begin with a brief background of Wells and her relationship with Addams. Given the familiarity of the readers of JSP with Addams's background, I will forego rehashing her biography. The arguments against lynching laid out by Addams in "Respect for Law" will be presented as well as the retort from Wells in "Lynching and the Excuse for It." I will suggest that this exchange reveals how Addams, despite providing many significant insights into the nature of oppression, violates her own feminist pragmatist method of inquiry, resulting in the perpetuation of a racist myth.
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Copyright © 2005 by the Pennsylvania State University. All rights reserved.
Citation Information
Maurice Hamington. "Public Pragmatism: Jane Addams and Ida B. Wells on Lynching" Journal of Speculative Philosophy Vol. 19 Iss. 2 (2005)
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