The main idea of Chapter 1: THE CASE STATED is the setting forth of the conditions of the "system of anarchy and outlawry" that was markedly entered into in the United States beginning in the year 1894.
This anarchy and outlawry is specifically the crimes of white Southern men against the freed Southern slaves, no longer slaves after the Congressional legalization of complete freedom, followed by enfranchisement (authorization to vote in local, state and federal elections). Specifics of these crimes are murders, including lynchings, and torture, "whipped, scourged, exiled, shot and hung," and disappropriation of property.
The Red Record discusses the statistics and facts regarding the lynching of African Americans in the Southern region of the United States. In Chapter 1, Wells begins by delineating the treatment of African Americans after emancipation. While in slavery, these individuals, considered as property and therefore a kind of investment, were ensured their lives although treated as sub-humans. After slavery ended, these individuals were ruthlessly murdered. She quotes Fredric Douglas' analysis of the history of the barbaric treatment of Negroes in the South. She continues to describe the horrific circumstances of African Americans in the South and the murders that are taking place.
The last paragraph of the chapter explains that the following chapters will be a record of the events laid out in chapter 1. The following chapters aim to document lynchings using evidence gathered and accounts written by white men in the United States.
The purpose of the pages which follow shall be to give the record which has been made, not by colored men, but that which is the result of compilations made by white men, of reports sent over the civilized world by white men in the South. Out of their own mouths shall the murderers be condemned.
The main point within Chapter 1 is then that the circumstances of African Americans within the United States had not improved since the emancipation of slaves. Rather, African Americans were being faced with even greater cruelty, often brutally murdered. In this sense Wells aims to highlight/ bring attention to a shocking and disturbing human rights issue in the South.