Steampunk Ida B. Wells-Barnett: Anti-Lynching, Anti-Victorian Crusader

“One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap.” – Ida B. Wells-Barnett

At a recent history conference, I had the fortune of attending a plenary titled “Mightier than the Sword: Conversations on the Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells-Barnett.” The panel featured historians Mia Bay, Paula Giddings and Patricia Schechter (among others), all of whom have authored works on the famed anti-lynching crusader. Though I’d studied Ida B. Wells-Barnett previously, during the discussion I was once again struck by her intense radicalism, which ran counter to the sensibilities of gender, activism and racial justice that pervaded the times. As often happens, my historian’s mind wandered into the speculative–particularly steampunk, where the Victorian Age’s analogous twin across the Atlantic, what Mark Twain satirized as “The Gilded Age” and well into the later “Progressive Era,” carried a violent dark side that Ida B. Wells-Barnett dedicated her life to revealing.

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