Thursday, May 14, 2015

May 14, 1900: William Willis

Today we learn about a lynching in Georgia through the pages of The Wilmington Messenger (Wilmington, N. C.) dated May 15, 1900:

AN OUTRAGEOUS MURDER

FOR WHICH THE MURDERER QUICKLY PAYS THE PENALTY OF HIS CRIME

SHOT TO DEATH ON STREET CAR

A Young White Man on a Street Car at Augusta, Ga., Resents the Insult of a Negro and Is Killed—The Negro Arrested—Officers Start to Atlanta with Him—The Train Met by a Party at a Near-by Depot and the Murderer Lynched.

Augusta, Ga., May 14.—Aleck Whitney, aged 25 years, a society leader and popular young man, was shot and killed on a street carat 7:30 o'clock p. m. by William Willis, a negro, in a dispute about a seat in the car. Much excitement, but not much fear of lynching.

. . .

Whitney and a friend  were riding on the electric belt  line when two negroes got on the car, one taking a seat in front and one sitting down on Whitney's lap. Whitney told the negro there was no m,more room before he sat down, but was paid no attention to. He shoved the negro up, telling him he could not sit there. the negro's friend, Willis, who was in the seat in front, said, " — it, sit there anyhow."

Whitney slapped the negro with the back of his hand and a scuffle ensued. Willis, who was not in the scuffle, drew a revolver and fired, the ball striking Whitney below the left eye. He died a few minutes after.

Large crowds soon collected and a special detail of twenty-five policemen with rifles were sent to guard the jail.

Willis was secretly  put on the Georgia railroad train, but a number of citizens had boarded the train also and when grovetoown was reached a telephone message having been previously sent to collect a crowd the negro was taken off the train by them. This is the latest report, but a lynching is sure to follow if not already accomplished.

Augusta, Ga., May 14.—William Willis, a negro, who shot and killed Alex Whitney, a popular
young man of this city yesterday afternoon, was lynched near here at 1:20 o'clock. The mob which disposed of Willis took him from Richmond county officers, who boarded a train for Atlanta soon after the murder was committed for the purpose of bringing him to a place of safety. The mob held Willis in the woods in Grovetown awaiting identification. He was s[w]ung from a tree. the rope broke in the first attempt and a second was made which was successful. the body was then riddled with bullets and a placard was placed upon it bearing a warning to other negroes. The coroner was notified and is now investigating.

Governor Candler was informed early in the day of the prospects of lynching and ordered four companies of state troops stationed here to [prepare] themselves in readiness to prevent any violence by the mob. Judge Brinson, of the superior court, called the grand jury together to prevent any outbreak but before these precautions could be effective the negro had been lynched. Alex. Whitney was on a crowded street car yesterday afternoon when Willis and another negro boarded it. No seats were available and one of the negroes sat in Whitney's lay [sic]. Whitney struck the negro and Willis suddenly commenced firing with a pistol. the first shot struck Whitney in the head, causing almost instant death. the second grazed the hand of Lieutenant Steiner, of the Georgia state troops.

Willis was overpowered and, later, placed in the hands of the officers.

A company of business men sent a notice to the city authorities that the law requiring street railways to furnish separate accommodations for white persons and negroes was not being enforced. It was stated that the military, which would be ordered to protect Willis in case of mob violence, would refuse to do so, as Whitney was a prominent member of the organization. 


Our second article is an excellent example of white privilege. It comes to us through the May 16, 1900 edition of The Houston Post (Houston, Texas):

A MURDER AND ITS STUDY.

Last Sunday evening William Willis, a negro, was lynched in Georgia. On Saturday he had shot to death a popular young white man of Augusta in a crowded street car. The frenzy with which the deed was committed was without provocation. Willis and a companion was told by the murdered man that there was no room for another on the seat he sought to occupy. Willis advised his friend to take a seat anyhow. The ill-mannered advice was immediately acted upon and the negro crowded down into the white man's lap. The white man promptly slapped him in the face. Willis drew his pistol and began firing at the white man who had but resented a brutal assault and who fell dead under the first shot. This is the story as the newspapers print it. It is not questioned. It must be true.

Now look out for a howl from the intermeddlers, who are ever attempting to solve for the South its racial problem, about Southern lynchings of the poor, defenseless negro.

We have naught to say about the lynching of the man Willis except to condemn it. The law should have obtained [sic] and Willis given a hearing before a jury of his peers, albeit the provocation was so insufficient as to have very probably provoked mob violence had the murderer, like his victim, been white. There are suggestions growing out of this affair in diabolism of which it is timely to treat, in view of all the discussion now hinging about the race issue.

There is a law in Augusta that requires street car companies to provide separate accommodations for white and black. The company which has violated this law and the authority which has permitted it to do so are gravely culpable with the murderer, in this instance. Had the one observed and the other enforced the law the white man would not have been murdered and Willis not lynched. What was the reason of this law? A good one and the same that is behind the separate coach law in Texas—to provide every means within the power of legislation to avoid conflict between the races, whenever they are thrown together, in any save voluntary association. The white man in the South will not occupy a seat with a negro if he can avoid it. The time will not come within the life of living man, and ought not to, when he will change his mind on this subject. if the white man objects to companionship of the negro in his travels he resents enforced negro contact on street car, railway line or elsewhere with his wife and children. He is right about it and, whether he is, all the rabid rantings of all the sensational mongers of all the Eastern and Northern centers in America can not change this view any more than they can put aside the work of Deity and reconstruct human nature. The negro knows this as well as does his Southern white neighbor. He moreover knows that he must keep the place assigned him in the social system by his white neighbor. Knowing these things it is incomprehensible that members of his race are from time to time found who insist upon forcing themselves on their white neighbors on the vulgar theory that they are "as good as the white man" and that the white man's determination to deny them fellowship is predicated in a brutal purpose to humiliate and discourage them.

No self-respecting white man int he South recalls with a shudder a time when, in almost all our towns, there were negroes who sought to obtrude themselves on the whites. that time, happily for both parties to the condition, has practically ceased to exist. It is only when some insolent creature, made with superficial education and swollen with the fancy that he is fashioned to do as he pleases, walks the boards that trouble is engendered between white and black.

The negro must learn that he can not rise to worthy place in American citizenship nor in social status except by the route of merit which has been imposed by God and man upon every race of men that has risen and fallen since the dawn of creation. his white neighbor has attained the civilization he struggles to imitate by that route. The negro must travel it too. When he shall plant his feet bravely in the path he will eventually reach the goal of his greater emancipation. Not before. Meanwhile let him bear well in mind that his white neighbor of the South who gives him advice knows him better, and is his surer friend, than the sentimental idiot of the North or of his own race who counsels him to rebellion against social laws as inexorable as Divine decree.


I feel like I need to take a shower after typing such drivel. Thank you for joining me and as always, i hope I leave you with something to ponder.



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