Tuesday, June 3, 2014

June 3, 1893: Samuel Bush

Today's lynching in history comes not from the South, but from Illinois.  An article from The Times from Philadelphia  June 5, 1893 states:

The Progress of Lynch Law

This time it is not the South that must answer for the brutal lynching of a black man for criminally assaulting white women.  It is the intelligent community of Decatur, Illinois, embracing 22,000 people, and the victim was lynched under the very shadow of the sanctuary of justice.

Nor was the lynching down by masked or unknown men.  Twenty well-known citizens, without any attempt at disguise, made an after-midnight visit to the jail where SAMUEL BUSH, a colored man, was a prisoner charged with assaults upon MRS. DILL and MRS. WEST.  When the surrender of the prisoner was refused, they battered down the door, led the trembling brute out in the presence of several hundred spectators, not one of whom raised a protest, and hung him in the full blaze of an electric light hard by the court house of the city.

The report of the lynching has this significant sentence added to it:   "It is thought that there will not be any prosecution."  In fact, it matters little whether the arrest of lynchers follows or not, as no jury could be found to render a verdict of guilty against them.  Just across the Northern line of Pennsylvania a negro was hung some months ago for a like offense, within a few feet of the village church, and there has been no public sentiment to demand the punishment of the lynchers.

The North has been unsparing in its criticism of the South for the frequent lynchings of negroes for assaults upon white women.  In the South there is little opportunity for protecting women from the brutal passions of the negro.  The sparse settlements and isolated homes of the majority of people, leaves women at the mercy of the brute who chooses to assault them, and summury and terrorizing punishment is accepted as the only thing that promises some measure of safety; but no such necessity can be pleaded in excuse of lynch law in a Northern city of over 20,000 people.

The truth may as well be looked squarely in the face both North and South, and let the confession be made there are four communities in any section of the country where lynch law would not be provoked by negro assaults upon white women.  However unjustifiable, it is the truth, and it is not wise to attempt to conceal it. The prejudice of race doubtless is an element in this lawless punishment, but the more brutal passions of the ignorant race have had as much influence in the summary execution of the negro for offenses against women; and it may now be accepted as the unwritten law in all sections to be applied, as a rule, in cases of such revolting crime.

On June 10, 1893, the Herald-Dispatch of Decatur Illinois states:

Echoes of the Lynching.

Five days have not materially decreased the interest in the lynching Samuel Bush.  The terrible act of a mob of impulsive men is still the talk of the town, and is still exciting comment from the press to neighboring towns.  The talk locally is not now on the act itself, but on the consequences that are likely to follow.  The question of what the grand jury will do and what will be the ultimate result of a trial in the circuit court is talked of on all sides.  There are very few people who believe that a conviction will ever be secured.  They figure that in case indictments are returned it will be impossible to secure twelve men who will find the members of the mob guilty.  Then it is urged that indictments should not end with one or two men who are said to have been the active leaders of the mob, but should include all who aided and abetted the act by their presence.

The Newark Advocate (Newark, Ohio) on June 30, 1893 had this small bit:

The Decatur (Ills.) grand jury failed to return indictments against the men who lynched negro Samuel Bush.

Several newspapers gave a bit more detail on the lynching.

  •  The sheriff broke into the mass and spoke to then trying to make them stop and was pushed out the door and given a hard kick in the stomach for his attempt.
  •  It was remarked that the victim was found hidden in his mattress in his jail cell pointed out to them by another prisoner.    
  • The victim addressed the men with, "Gentlemen, you are killing an innocent man."
  • That Bush had been allowed to kneel and pray before hanging.  "He prayed in a sing-song way.  He would call on Jesus to come and take his soul and to forgive the men who were murdering him and then declare that he was innocent."  Apparently he continued praying in a disjointed way until the crowd of at least 1500 grew impatient.
  • After 10 minutes of praying the spectators yelled, "Hang him, he's prayed enough."
  • They hanged him naked first to a telegraph wire. When that did not work, a dozen hands threw him on top of a hack and had the horse drive away.  He fell to less than two feet from the ground and died. The coroner declared him dead a few minutes later. 
  •   He was purported to have been born in 1800 at Mason, Mississippi.
  • It was the first lynching ever in Macon County.
  • Both husbands of the female victims were in the mob.

Sorry this is so long, but I try to give as much information as I can to form a fuller picture of the circumstances.

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