A History of White Supremacy: Ida B. Wells Did NOT Coin The Phrase “White Supremacy”

We saw on Twitter where someone  said: “Ida B Wells may have coined the phrase “white supremacy…” Real simple…real quick Ida B. Wells DID NOT coin the phrase “white supremacy.” The need to legitimize Black people using a phrase that was not invented by us or for us shows the people pushing that agenda are fresh out of ideas. To get at the truth we only need follow what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad still tells us. Since we find it true, history is best qualified to reward all research, let’s look at a history of white supremacy to know where the idea originated.


A history of white supremacy
Ida B. Wells DID NOT coin the phrase “white supremacy.”

Before we go any further with this analysis, we must emphasize there is not now, nor has there ever been, a single, quantifiable, empirical phenomenon upon which to base the idea people are “white.” Furthermore, there is no material substance from which to derive so-called “white” people. White has no chemical formula nor molecular structure. There are no cartesian coordinates that can pinpoint the location of white anywhere in the known universe. Therefore, it is irrational and illogical to refer to people as being white. Without a quantifiable empirical phenomenon attached to it, the notion of whiteness is little more than a superstitious belief. When that fact is pointed out to someone and they continue to firmly hold onto that belief, they can then be counted as delusional.

So where did the concept of “white” supremacy originate? The Oxford English Dictionary cites T. S. Winn as the earliest to use that phrase in 1824. Winn’s book entitled “Emancipation: Or Practical Advice to British Slave-holders: with Suggestions for the General Improvement of West India Affairs” gives us the following on page 57:


A history of white supremacy
Cover of “Emancipation or practical advice to British slave-holders with suggestions for the general improvement of West India Affairs.” This book contains the first known use of the phrase “wh**e supremacy.”

…lLet not our colonists trust to the hazardous experiment of not acceding, or preparing for general Emancipation of their slaves, ’till they forcibly acquire it for themselves ; or it may be too late by any means, however wisely and honestly attempted, to reduce them to order and obedience under White supremacy, or even among themselves.

Emancipation: Or Practical Advice to British Slave-holders: with Suggestions for the General Improvement of West India Affairs page 57

Even though used in a book about emancipation of slaves, the overall intention was to, apparently, continue “white supremacy.”


A history of white supremacy
Screen shot of definition of “wh**e” supremacy from Oxford English Dictionary showing the earliest uses of the phrase.

The OED cites the second use in a book entitled “Thirty Years in India” by Henry Bevan published in 1839. We actually found an earlier second occurrence of the phrase.

“The First Annual Report of the Edinburgh Society for Promoting the Mitigation and Ultimate Abolition of Negro Slavery,” 1824 states as follows on page 20:

“Whether the pride and passion of the resident Colonists will ever allow them to understand us, may be questioned; but certainly we are making considerable advances towards understanding them and their system. Last year we were taught to believe, that the whip was merely a symbol of authority, a badge of office, like the sword of state, or the Speaker’s mace, an object of reverence, but not of fear. Now, however, we arrive at the truth of the matter, and find that the whip is of the very essence of the system and that the right to use it is the fundamental charter of white supremacy. We learn, moreover, that it is not only the practice, but the principle of the Colonists to keep the Slaves in moral, as well as in political degradation; for they declare that nothing but the force of habit, and a brutish indistinct idea of the superiority and fixed power of their masters, keep them in awe and submission.”

The First Annual Report of the Edinburgh Society for Promoting the Mitigation and Ultimate Abolition of Negro Slavery,” 1824 states as follows on page 20

So we have the second instance of the use of “white supremacy,” both of which were almost 40 years, nearly four decades, before the birth of Ida B. Wells in 1862.

What exactly did Henry Bevan say about “white” supremacy in 1839? On page 299 of volume II he says:

The security of our empire in the East would be greatly strengthened if the Hindoos could be brought to regard us as their fellow subjects, not as their masters or conquerors, and our functionaries would abandon, or at least conceal, those notions of White supremacy, which are frequently absurd, and always offensive.

Bevan has “our empire” as his top priority. He wants the security of it strengthened and is seeking the abandonment, or at least concealment of “white” supremacy towards that end.

At this point we could wrap this post up and call it a done deal. We have completely demolished the notion Ida B. Wells could have possibly coined the phrase “white” supremacy, however, there is more to the story of a history of white supremacy.

That phrase, is used in the above instances in relation to British colonies. When was the first use of it in the United States of America?

The daily crescent. ([New Orleans, La.]) 1848-1851, August 20, 1850, Morning, Image 2

A history of white supremacy
Headline for letter to The Daily Crescent by Cora Montgomery entitled “On Negro Ascendency in the West India Islands in August 1850.

An August 20, 1850 letter from “Cora Montgomery” is the earliest instance we have so far of that phrase in the USA. Her letter appears in The Daily Crescent of New Orleans above the heading “On Negro Ascendency in the West Indies.” Montgomery is concerned “a second Africa” will emerge in that area because, apparently, it has been “given over by Europe to the Blacks.” She encourages a policy which will prevent the amalgamation of Dominica, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Cuba into an empire–the “Negro Ascendency” of her letter. She not only sees Cuba as the last hope of “white” supremacy in that area, but the only remaining barrier between the USA and a Black empire which has all the elements necessary to become prosperous and powerful.

Montgomery actually states:

This ascendency is now advancing with rapid footsteps, and Cuba may be fairly declared not only the last hope of white supremacy in those islands but the single remaining barrier that interposes between our coasts and a numerous empire of blacks, fostered, guided and upheld by the strongest powers of Europe. Add Cuba to the mass of negro preponderance which has so lately acquired the dominion of our southern seas, and no home or foothold is left for the white man in this whole array of noble islands.

“On Negro Ascendency in the West Indies” by Cora Montgomery

What is remarkable about this letter is the writer herself. Not only is she the author of several books, one in particular, “Life in Santo Domingo. By a settler,” published in 1873, about her time living in Santo Domingo on a farm she purchased but Cora Montgomery is the nom de plume or pen name for a woman by the name of Jane Maria Eliza McManus Cazneau. Cazneau, journalist, author, promoter, an unofficial diplomat, is also credited as having been the originator of the phrase “manifest destiny.”

Before we close this post out, we have got to mention John H. Van Evrie. People cite Van Evrie as coining the phrase “white” supremacy. We only mention him here to assure those who believe he originated the phrase we have covered all bases in our research.

In 1867 he took a book published in 1853 as Negroes and Negro “Slavery”: The First an Inferior Race; the Latter Its Normal Condition, stripped off references to miscegenation and “subgenation”, and republished it as White Supremacy and Negro Subordination or, Negroes A Subordinate Race and Slavery Its Normal Condition. Van Evrie was plainly lost. He obviously suffered from an inferiority complex that he felt needed to be papered over with thoughts to distract from his own inferior feelings by projecting them onto someone else. His Wikipedia article goes into great detail about all there is to show he was a person not to be taken seriously.

There we have a history of white supremacy, or at least its earliest appearance in print. Now that we have clarified that Ida B. Wells wasn’t even born when the phrase was coined we hope that myth goes no further.


By Nnamdi Azikiwe

The Mhotep Corporation uses its Keyamsha The Awakening brand to heighten perceptions and expand awareness. By producing content that engages, entertains and educates we create value for value relationships with our audience for mutual benefit. Mhotep is derived from the name of the architect and builder of the first pyramid in Kemet, so-called ancient Egypt. I formed the Mhotep Corporation in 2003 to produce and distribute 3D animation videos based on traditional African stories. Since then it has evolved to being a media production company including books. In a previous life I worked as a systems analyst developing solutions for government and multinational organizations. Born and educated in Washington, D.C. I have traveled to several places including Haiti, the Bahamas, Mexico, Canada, Nigeria (several times), Ethiopia (several times), Benin, Togo, and South Africa. I am married with three children.

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