What is the central theme and tone of Ida B. Wells-Barnett's Book "A Red Record".

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The tone of A Red Record is unmistakable and in chapter 1 the reader is instantly introduced to "the year 1894" and the "awakening of the public conscience" so there can be no misunderstanding as to Ms Wells-Barnett's intentions. The tone then is accusatory as "the inevitable result of unbribled power.... by the white man over the Negro" causes "conscienceless outlawry" but, whilst expected, it is certainly not excused, as Wells points out regularly. "We have associated too long with the white man not to have copied his vices as well as his virtues.." (ch 10) reveals, however, that there can be no denying that the responsibility lies with both sides.

It also expresses disbelief as the events that take place and the injustices that are perpetuated are almost unbelievable. The callousness of the "lynch mobs" is revealed in the tone. There is a slight change in tone in chapter 7 as "Lynch Law cannot flourish in the future as it has in the past" but the "hopes for the new South we have so fondly cherished" are far from being realized. There is a defiance evident in the tone of the book and the reader is encouraged to realize the great sacrifice that must be made to ensure "true freedom" and "to make others free!"

The last chapter which includes James Russel Lowell's "Stanzas on Freedom"confirms the main theme of A Red Record as evil must be recognized as evil and everyone, including "slaves" must speak out for others as otherwise "Are ye truly free and brave?" Individuals suffered enormously at the hands of lynch mobs and there must be a purpose to all of this. Wells-Barnett herself concedes that "my love for the truth is greater than my regard for an alleged friend"(ch 8) after she is maligned and has to speak up against intolerance and so-called "Christian" practices.

Right from the beginning, whilst the injustices must be voiced, the reason for the book and its theme of perseverance for the greater good must not be lost in the enormity of the atrocities as "he tries to bear his burden with patience for today and be hopeful for tomorrow." (ch 1)