Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 30, 1888: Sam Cornwell

Join me for a journey into our not always pleasant history.  Today we make two stops for our lynching articles.  Our first stop is The Topeka Daily Capital (Topeka, Kansas) dated October 2, 1888:

Colored Man Lynched for Quarrelling.

COLUMBIA, S. C., October 1.—Sam Cornwell (colored) was lynched last night by whites for quarrelling with Tom White, a white man.

I only found two articles for our journey, the first one I thought was concise and to the point.  The second one gives us more detail and is found in The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) on October 2, 1888:


A Negro Brutally Shot while in the Custody of a Constable.

ST. LOUIS, Mo., October 1.—A special from Columbia, S. C., says Sam Cornwell, colored, was brutally lynched in Chester county last night. Cornwell and a white man named Tom Smith had a quarrel. A peace warrant was made out against the negro and was given to Constable Lippard to execute. The constable, accompanied by three other white men, among them Tom Smith, arrested Cornwell and started for the courthouse with the prisoner. This morning the body of Cornwell with fifteen bullets through it was found by the roadside.

That is all I could find on the lynching of Sam Cornwell.  I hope you will continue this journey through history with me to an interesting article found in The New York Age (New York, N. Y.) on June 22, 1916:


Southerner Specifies What Must Be Done to End Defiance of Law.


One Everlasting, Fundamental and Eternal Gospel to be Preached, Then There will be No Justification for Race Hatred.


Declared that White Men Must Start a Crusade Against White Vultures who Prey on Colored Girls—Many Times Fifty Colored Girls Seduced by Lowdown White Men—Few Lynchings Due to Rapings.

A strong and noteworthy expression on the lynching problem was recently made by a Southern white man, W. D. Weatherford author of "Negro Life in the South" and "Present Forces in Negro Progress." Mr. Weatherford was addressing the Southern Sociological Congress, which was holding a session at New Orleans. He stated at the outset that lynching was only common in those countries where the government was weak or poorly established.

Mr. Weatherford disagrees with those who attribute attacks on women as a cause for lynchings. He cites the record made by the slave coachmen during the war in controversion of this charge. Entering into a detailed discussion of lynching, its causes and its effects, Mr. Weatherford spoke as follows:

"Whatever the explanation of the origin of this horrible crime, there can be no doubt that it is greatly increased by the racial antagonisms which have grown up since the war, and as we shall see later, one means of prevention must of necessity be the removal of race hatred and social injustice.

The Causes of Lynching.

"Viewed from the standpoint of those who compose the mob, the causes of lynching have been variously stated. Some have thought that lynching was simply a perverted instinct; that it is a survival of the instinct of the chase, and has in it an element of bloodthirstiness which is satisfied in war and the killing of game. This may have some justification, but to me it does not seem a sufficient explanation.

"Others have supposed that it is the appeal to brute force as the only means which men have found adequate and drastic enough to awaken hardened and brutal men. Still others have defended it on the basis that it is the only punishment that will strike terror to the heart of the criminal classes and thus prevent further crimes. Again, it has been defended on the ground that it is the only way to punish the criminal and at the same time shield from public attention the one against whom the crime has been committed. Some have even been willing to defend lynching on the ground that it is the only form of vengeance which will bring any degree of relief to the male relatives of the wronged person.

"However plausible these arguments in favor of lynching may seem to the inflamed mind, not one of them will stand the scrutiny of a sober mind.

Lynching Does Not Prevent Crime.

"It is a well-known fact that lynching does not prevent crime. It is a well-established fact that lynchings tend to repeat themselves in certain localities. The hardening effect of one lynching tends definitely to the increase of the most horrible of crimes.

"It should be noticed first of all that all persons lynched have not been men, and all men lynched have not been Negroes. The first lynchings in this country were perpetrated on Indians, later on desperate white men, then later on Negroes, and recently on white men and women who have committed such crimes as to arouse violent popular hatred. According to Mr. Cutler (Lynch Law), of the 3,337 lynchings between 1882 and 1903, 2,060 were Negroes, 1,169 were whites, 108 were foreigners and Indians. Forty of the colored and twenty-three of the whites were women.

"It should next be noted that the overwhelming majority of colored lynchings (66 per cent.) are not for criminal assault at all. Of all the colored men lynched, only 34 per cent. of them were lynched for the one awful crime of assault on white women. Thirty-eight per cent. were lynched for murder, 10 per cent. for minor offences, 5 per cent. for arson, and in the remaining 8 per cent. for unclassified or petty crimes, and, indeed, in some cases, for no crimes at all. Of those lynched for minor offences, there were ninety-one different causes given, varying from jilting a girl and throwing stones, up to kidnapping.

What Must Be Done.

"Six specific things must be done if we are to remove the stigma of lynching from the South.

"First, we must have such changes in court procedure as will insure prompt and just punishment of criminals, particularly in cases of criminal assault. There is no particle of doubt that many lynchings take place because of apprehension on the part of the people that the courts will dally with the case until the lesson taught from prompt administration of justice will be lost.

"Second, we white men must start a crusade against the white vultures who prey on colored girls. If there were fifty white women assaulted by Negroes in 1916, I have no doubt there were many times that many colored girls seduced by low-down white men.

"Third, the leaders of the Negro race must begin to preach a crusade against Negro brutes who commit this terrible crime.

"Fourth, white and colored alike must unite in uncovering every criminal and bringing every offender to justice promptly and without evasion. White men must guarantee safety to every man who is waiting trial, and color men must cease to defend every scalawag by saying it is a case of race prejudice. The white man is criminally guilty of neglecting to give every man a due trial, and not a few colored men are guilty of trying to make martyrs of every Negro charged with criminal assault.

"Fifth, we must inspire new respect for law in the hearts of our younger generation. Every case of lynching is a direct blow at stable government. No nation can continue as a law-abiding commonwealth when its laws are constantly defied by those who claim to be the defenders of justice. When any group undertakes to administer justice unlawfully, it soon results that the lawless element of that group gets into control, and we have a reign of anarchy. This is the present situation in regard to lynching.

"Sixth, we must inculcate a deep respect for personality if we are to remove the cause of lynching. We lynched Negroes first because we thought we respected womanhood, but the hideous scenes of lynching so hardened our hearts as to make us bold to lynch women, even white women, in whose defence we first practiced this horrible cruelty. Lynching has brutalized every community where it has been practiced, and has sowed the dragon teeth for a new harvest of crime.

Sacredness of the Person.

"If we are to remove lynching, the one everlasting , fundamental and eternal gospel we must preach is the sacredness of the person. That means that, since the person is sacred, we cannot despise any, and there can be no justification for race hatred. On the peril of losing all my respects for rights, privileges and law, I, as a white man, dare not hate a Negro, and, what is just as much to the point, the Negro, on the same penalty, dare not hate a white man.

"Lynching does not strike terror to the heart of any race; it rather arouses the devil in them to do their worst. Lynching never shields the victim of assault from public notice; it rather throws her into the most lurid limelight.

"Lynching does not prevent crime, because it brutalizes all who take part, and arouses bitter resentment in the hearts of the class to whom the victim belongs. Lynching is not lawful punishment of individual crime; it is criminal procedure against the stability of the State and the safety of the whole public. All revengeful dealing is answered by new revenge, and every lynching sows the seeds for a dozen or more murders and assaults.

"Prompt administration of justice, a deeper respect for law, a fundamental respect for personality, and the eradication for all class and race prejudices; these will bring about a new public sentiment, which will make lynching impossible. To the propagation of these great issues every law-abiding citizen should give himself."

Mr. Weatherford's address made such a deep impression that the delegates voted unanimously to give it the widest publicity in the press and to publish it in pamphlet form.

Thank you for joining me on this journey to the past, and as always I hope I leave you with something to ponder.   

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