Friday, July 29, 2016

August 1, 1919: Fruitage of Mob Law

Today we feature an article found in the August 1, 1919 edition of the Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania):


THE suspicion that there may be some underground movement to foment trouble between the colored citizens of the country and their white brothers id somewhat justified by recent outbreaks in widely-separated sections. Down south, state officials and others are appealing to those colored men who left the south during the war period—under the impression that they would improve their condition north of the Mason and Dixon line—to return to their old homes, with the assurance of better treatment and appreciation for their usefulness.

It is hard to harmonize these appeals with recent stories of the treatment of returning black soldiers in Georgia. Two stories from Blakely and Cordele in Georgia illustrate this point. Both appeared recently in print in southern newspapers.

According to one dispatch, Private William Little, a returned soldier, was beaten to death by a mob near Blakely. It is stated that he was "a prominent young man in this vicinity and from one of the most respectable families in the immediate community." Details of his lynching are to the effect that returning from the service he was accused of wearing his military uniform "too long;" that upon arriving at Blakely he was advised by a certain white element to remove his army uniform and that several anonymous communications were sent to him with instructions to leave town if he wanted "to sport around in his khaki." According to the narrative, Little was halted at the railroad station when he first returned and told to strip himself of his uniform before he walked down the main thoroughfare of the city, being threatened with arrest unless he did so. Having no civilian clothes he was permitted to go home in his uniform. Later, whiie [sic] receiving congratulations from friends, a mob attacked him and he was lynched in the uniform to which his assailants seemed to seriously object.

The other story from Cordele states that Bud Williamson, a traveling representative of a picture company, was driven out of town by white people who objected to the selling of photographs showing Sergeants Johnson and Roberts, the famous heroes of the Fifteenth New York Regiment, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with Germans. Williamson's pictures were destroyed when he arrived in a white settlement to which he had been called by a telephone message. he was badly beaten and at the muzzle of a revolver was ordered to leave town immediately.

These may be extreme cases, but they are illuminating and illustrate the indefensible attitude of a certain class of the white population in the south and elsewhere. Fortunately for the welfare of the country, the law-abiding citizens of the white and black races are united in the determination to uphold the rights of all classes of our citizenry and to suppress the unruly element which seeks to arouse bitter feeling and race prejudice wherever and whenever possible.

Mob law will never be sustained in this country and it is high time that the lynchings which have disgraced America are prevented by the strong arm of justice. The failure to enforce law is an invitation to anarchy and all the evils in its train.

Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.

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