Sunday, October 12, 2014
October 12, 1942: Charlie Lang and Ernest Green
Join me in journeying to the past to Meridian, Mississippi through the pages of the Belvidere Daily Republican (Belvidere, Illinois) on October 12, 1942:
Two Negro Boys, 14 Years Old, Lynched
MERIDIAN, Miss., Oct. 12—The lynching of two 14-year-old Negro boys was disclosed today when their bodies were found at a river bridge about 35 miles south of here.
The Negroes, Charlie Lang and Ernest Green, both of Shubuta, were taken from the Quitman jail yesterday by a mob of irate, unidentified men who overpowered City Marshall G. F. Dabbs.
Lang and Green were arrested last Tuesday and accused of waylaying a 13-year-old white girl who was walking home from school. Both Negroes entered pleas of guilty to charges of attempted rape.
When Dabbs answered a knock at the jail door yesterday, members of the mob threw a blanket over his head, pinned down his arms, took his keys and then locked him in the women's cell.
Sheriff Lloyd McNeal of Clarke county, who began looking for the boys, found their bodies suspended from the bridge where the girl was waylaid.
Danville, Virginia's The Bee will bring us the next part of the troubles in Mississippi on the 13th of October, 1942:
Assailants Of Girl Lynched In Mississippi
Governor Vows Justice To Men Who Slew Negroes
JACKSON, Miss., Oct. 13.—(AP)—Governor Paul Johnson has served notice that he will do all in his power to bring to justice a group of unidentified men who lynched two negroes early yesterday in Clarke county.
Charlie Lang and Ernest Green, both 14, of Shubuta, were taken from the Quitman jail after they had entered plas [sic] of guilty to charges of attempted rape of a 13-year-old white girl.
"I will exert every reasonable effort to see that the violated laws of Mississippi are vindicated," said Johnson. "Such acts are spots upon the good name of Mississippi and the better class of people here condemn this wrong."
The governor said he had asked Sheriff Lloyd McNeal of Clarke county why he hadn't moved the negroes after the guilty pleas Saturday and the sheriff replied that he had been advised by the county attorney that it would be all right to keep the negroes in the Quitman jail.
"He said he saw no evidence of any probable lynching," Johnson continued, "but I told him it was his duty to notify the governor so the prisoners could be protected as has been done before."
The Bee also informs us in the next leg of our journey in Mississippi on the 21st of October, 1942:
3 Lynchings Investigated By FBI Agents
Governor Johnson Welcomes Inquiry By Federal Men
JACKSON, Miss., Oct. 21.—(AP)—Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, ordered by Attorney General Biddle to investigate lynchings of three negroes in Mississippi last week, have the welcome of the state's chief executive.
Governor Paul Johnson said he had done his full duty in trying to see that the laws violated by the lynchers were vindicated. He said state troopers have arrested five men believed to be part of the lynching of Howard Wash, 45, at Laurel after Wash was convicted of slaying his employer and given a life sentence.
He added, however, that the men were later released by county and district officials. The governor intimated that his investigator had been unable to learn the identity of mobsters who lynched Charlie Lang and Ernest Green, 14 year old Shubuta residents who were dragged from the Quitman jail October 12.
"It remains with the civil officers of the counties in which the lynchings were committed to follow up the cases," Johnson declared. "If the federal government acting within its constitutional powers can be of assistance to the state I shall welcome any investigation it wishes to make."
It was reported here that G-men already are investigating the lynchings. S. C. Broom, assistant U. S. District Attorney here, said his office had been instructed to assist the agents.
The final leg of our journey is told through The Pittsburg Courier (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania) on October 31, 1942:
Folks In Dixie "Lynch Town" Don't Care About FBI Probe
COURIER AND PM SEND REPORTER; HERE'S HIS STORY
EDITOR'S NOTE:—The Pittsburg Courier believes in giving its readers the truth . . . FIRST: With this in mind, this news paper has made an arrangement with the liberal New York daily PM, to have one of their "ace" reporters, Victor H. Bernstein, fly to Jackson, Miss., and then go to Quitman, Miss., by automobile to get an EXCLUSIVE story.
Mr. Bernstein's graphic story, dramatically portraying the "story behind the story," is printed herewith.
By VICTOR H. BERNSTEIN
Special Correspondent, The Pittsburg Courier and PM
(Copyright 1942, Field Publications and The Pittsburg Courier)
JACKSON, Miss., Oct. 29—Sheriff Lloyd McNeal, of Quitman, told me his version of the story. He is a husky, red-headed fellow; self-spoken and very polite when he puts his mind to it. He put his mind to it this time.
We sat in his car parked in a lot besides the courthouse in Quitman. The courthouse is like ten thousand others in rural America, with shabby corridors and dim cubbyhole—offices and bulletin boards plastered with yellow and fly specked notices. Quitman itself—population 1400—consists of a couple hundred yards of highway 45, and two or three short side streets running off to the West.
"THEY GOT A FAIR AND SQUARE HEARING. . ."
"First off," said the Sheriff, "The papers got the ages wrong, sayin['] they were 14. Mr. Simpson tells me the Green boy worked for him ten years ago, and that he was yearlin' age then. You better put it down. Them N......rs wasn't 14, They were maybe 16 to 18.
"All right. We arrested them N......rs—Charlie Lang and Ernest Green—a week ago last Tuesday. We went down to Shubuta and got 'em on complaint of a 13-year-old girl. We brought 'em up here and they got a fair-and-square hearing before Justice of the Peace W. E. Eddings and they confessed to attempted rape."
"Do those boys know what attempted rape is?"
"It was this way," said the Sheriff. "They tol' us they waited for the girl at the bridge, knowin' she came that way from school. One N......r waited under the bridge. The other hid beside the road. When the girl came along, this Green jumped out at her from beside the road.
"You scared me, boy," the girl said.
"I'm gonna do worse than that," the N......r said and grabbed for her. She ran away. Green said he was planning to grab her and bring her down under the bridge to the other N......r."
"Did Green touch the girl?"
"Why, no. A car came along and it scared him. Like I said, the girl run away."
"And that's the story the boys told?"
SHERIFF TALKS ABOUT LYNCHING
"Yes, sir, and another thing. Don't let anybody tell you them N......rs was beaten up or anything. They got a fair and square hearin' before the Justice of the Peace and they confessed. We never touched them."
Then he told about the lynching. That was the following Monday, about 1:30 a. m. Somebody called City Marshal Dabbs at his home and said he was a constable with a prisoner and could the jail be opened? So Dabbs dressed and drove around to the jail behind the courthouse. And when he got out two men grabbed him, pulled his coat over his head and one of them stole his keys. Someone held him for a while and the next thing he knew he heard a car starting up and going away fast.
Another Negro prisoner in the jail later said he saw only two men inside, getting the two boys. The Sheriff says he figures the job was done by three men, certainly not more than four.
SEARCHING PARTY LOOKED FOR BRIDGES
The Sheriff organized a searching party, then. And they went down a couple of roads looking for bridges, because, of course, he knew what he was looking for. And on a dirt road two miles East of Shubuta they came to this old bridge over the winding Chickashaway river, and they looked beneath, and there was a rusty beam, and there below the beam the two boys hung. Their brown toes curling downward towards the quiet water.
This was the bridge which figured in this story the boys are said to have told before the Justice of the Peace. It is also the bridge where Clarke County's last lynching took place, in 1918, when four Negroes—two of them girls—were hanged for complicity in the murder of a local dentist. Statistical -minded people say six people were really lynched, not four, because the two girls had been present.
I asekd [sic] the Sheriff:
"WE BEEN SEARCHIN', BUT FOLKS WON'T TALK"
"How do the townspeople feel about the lynching?"
"We're all for law and order here," the Sheriff said. "But, of course, we got some good folks who get kind of wild. Them N......rs is gettin' uppity, you know."
"Has anything been done to catch the lynchers?"
"Why, sure. We been searching, and you know the Governor sent down some of his State Guard. And now the FBI is around asking questions. But you know how it is, people don't like to tell on their friends."
"Do you thing [sic], if the FBI turned up some evidence, or maybe you did, you could get a Grand Jury to indict and a jury to convict?"
"That's a tough question" said the Sheriff. "I really wouldn't know. Feeling runs high against N.....rs sometimes."
"Have you any idea, Sheriff what can be done to prevent things like this in the future?"
"Why, no," the Sheriff said. "I don't think I have."
DOESN'T BELIEVE IN MOBS, BUT DOES NOTHING
I walked across the highway and dropped in to speak to the editor of the Clark County Tribune. This editor isn't really a native; he comes from a couple of counties below.
"I don't believe in violence," he told me. "None of the better people around here believe in violence. This kind of thing is bad for the town, for the country and for the state."
"Did you write an editorial about the lynching?"
"To tell the truth, no. I covered the lynching, all right. Just a straight story, but seems to me my best policy is to forget it, now."
I asked what good it was to be against lynching and yet not do anything about it. He said something about "What's the use of making speeches to empty chairs."
DOESN'T BELIEVE THE FBI WILL GET ANYWHERE
I asked, "Do you think the FBI will get anywhere?"
"Frankly, no," he said. "There's lots of people here don't like the idea of the government comin' in on a local affair. We got our pride, you know."
Around the bolck [sic] I talked to a man whose name had been given me in Jackson. He was an educated fellow.
"It is a terrible thing," the man said. "There was no call for mob violence. There's never a call for mob violence."
"You're apparently one of the leading citizens here," I said. "Have you made any public statements? Have you tried to organize a protest?"
"Why, no," he said. "I haven't talked to anyone about it. I've got other things on my mind."
He was a sad-looking man, and I'm sure he was speaking the truth when he said he had other things on his mind. I thought about it on the way back to my car. Everybody in Quitman seemed to have things on their mind. I wondered if one of the things was the fear of being called N......' Lover."
No, I didn't get to see the families of the lynched boys. I should have, I know, but I didn't because a man in Quitman told me quietly, "It wouldn't do them N......rs any good to be seen talking to you."
That brings us to the end of our journey. Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.