Progressive-era policies in the post–Civil-War United States were generally focused on an increase in social egalitarianism and the reigning in of centralized, vested interests. Examples of these policies include direct democracy (often manifesting itself in support for initiative and referendums), creation of strong anti-trust laws to break up business monopolies, and advocacy of women's suffrage. Most important to Ida B. Wells's later commentary, however, was a call for organized labor.
Wells was an African American journalist. In her 1892 writing, inspired by the lynching of black Americans in the South, she advocated policies she felt African Americans should pursue to achieve greater racial justice. Many of these policies were inspired by the Progressive-era philosophies of the time. Observing that labor by African Americans was key to the new industrial economy, she called for labor organizing by blacks, observing that "if labor is withdrawn, capital will not remain." This, she reasoned, would force greater racial equality, because if the economy were threatened, the dominant racial class (white Americans) would intervene to "stop the outrages in many localities."