Monday, December 15, 2014

December 15, 1886: Alfred Hawks

Today we follow a lynching that occurred in Paint Rock, Alabama through the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California) dated December 17, 1886:


They Quickly Avenged a Cold-Blooded Murder.

CHICAGO, December 16.—The Times' Chattanooga (Tenn.) special of December 15th says:  News of a cold-blooded murder in Alabama was received here to-night. Fred Smith was a merchant of Paint Rock. About noon a man named Alfred Hawks walked into his store and asked for a pistol. Smith loaded the weapon and turned to step aside, when to the horror of half as dozen customers Hawks began firing at Smith. The murderer fired five shots into Smith's body, killing him instantly, Hawks was arrested and the Sheriff started with him to Scottsboro jail, but it is learned to-night that a band of citizens followed them and lynched Hawks.

Today's article of interest comes to us through The New York Age (New York, New York) dated October 26, 1911:


Paper Deplores Mob Law and Refers to Recent Acts of Lawlessness—Scoffs at Plea That Negroes Are Lynched in Defense of American Womanhood.

In a strong editorial denouncing lynching, under the caption of "The Crime of Being a Negro," the New York World of October 24, charges that Negroes are lynched because of their color, and says:

"In a Georgia town widely known as a model community a mob last week took a Negro from jail and lynched him for the offense of striking a white man. In an Oklahoma city on Sunday a Negro was taken from the hands of a deputy sheriff and riddled with bullets for killing the City Attorney and shooting two other white citizens in a riot provoked by a Negro who pushed a white woman from the sidewalk.

"In neither case had 'the usual crime' been committed by the victim of the mob's vengeance and is neither was there the excuse that the honor of women had to be protected by making an example of the culprit. There was no occasion to fear that either malefactor would escape justice. The Negro lynched in Georgia was in a cell awaiting punishment and the Negro lynched in Oklahoma was in safe custody. Granting the greater provocation to wreak vengeance on the assassin of a city official, the mob had been assured that he 'would be convicted and legally hanged within thirty days' and there was not the slightest reason to suppose that the promise would not be fulfilled.

"The mobs which have made these additions to the ghastly record of blood vengeance in a civilized country may at least be credited with tearing the veil of pretense from the plea that Negroes are lynched in defense of American womanhood. They are lynched because they are Negroes where the ordinary processes of justice are not swift enough to punish. When Negroes are summarily put to death without trial and without discrimination for offenses as far removed in heinousness as simple assault and murder, the theory is enforced that justice in this country is for the white man and not for the Negro.

"It is something to have lynching freed of its hypocrisy; but with what a sardonic commentary on the equality of all Americans under the law without distinction of color!" 

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