Monday, August 22, 2016

June 2, 1892: Mob Violence in the South

Today's article is found in the Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) dated June 2, 1892:


For the information of the Chicago Herald, which just now is engaged in apologizing for the wholesale lynchings of negroes in the South upon the false plea that nine out of ten of them are lynched for rape, we subjoin the following statement of the operations of mob law for the month of May just closed:  There have been reported during the month 31 cases of lynching. Of these 31 were in the Southern States, 0 in the Northern. Of these 31 cases 26 were negroes and 5 were whites. Of the 5 whites one was lynched for murder, one for seduction, and three for advising murder. Of the 26 negroes 7 were lynched for rape, 11 for murder, and eight for robbery. There were but three Southern States which were not characterized by the usurption of justice—Kentucky, Virginia and Missouri.

That the crime of rape is prevalent among the negroes admits of no question if we assume that all those who are lynched for it are guilty, and no one will have any sympathy for the wretches, but that nine out of ten are lynched for that crime is false, and the Herald knows it. Last month seven were lynched for rape and nineteen for other offenses, and this proportion substantially will hold good for the last ten years. This is bad enough, but it does not afford any excuse for gross misstatements on the one hand or for the condemnation of a race because of the acts of individuals on the other. If the Herald has any reliable information as to the number of lynchings let it produce it and present name, date, and place. Give us the facts and THE TRIBUNE will do likewise.

The Governor of Georgia, where lynching has become very common, does not share the apologetic spirit of the Herald. He has been moved by an outrageous act of mob violence, the hanging of three negroes at once near Clarksville who were suspected of robbery, but against whom there was no proof, to declare that he will put a stop to lynching if the State will give him the necessary power, and he has authorized the Secretary of State to offer a reward of $200 for the arrest of all persons who participate in affairs of this kind. Whether his proclamation will stop lynching, however, remains to be seen. It is questionable whether public sentiment is yet ripe enough to give a negro the benefit of trial in the courts so long as a tree and a rope are handy. He is only "a nigger," and even if he is the wrong "nigger" it makes little difference. The Governor of South Carolina does not feel like apologizing for mob violence, either. Last week he was appealed to by some citizens of Gray Court to investigate the lynching of David Shaw, a negro, who was charged with stealing forty dollars' worth of goods from a store. His accusers took him away from the constable and killed him entirely upon suspicion. It is not the first time complaints have been made to him of the hanging of negroes upon suspicion, and in his impatience the Governor remarked that he supposed men would soon be hanged for cursing one another.

Granted the prevalence of crime among the negroes, granted that the offenders deserve punishment and are not entitled to sympathy, and granted that the odious crime of rape is a common one there is something wrong with the courts, something wrong with the operations of the law, and something wrong with public sentiment in the Southern States when the record of a single month shows that twenty-six negroes were lynched and but four hanged in those States. There is nothing political in this wretched business. It is purely a question of education. Education for the negroes on the one hand to lift them up from crimes which grow out of besotted ignorance; education for the whites on the other that shall make them observant of law and that shall make them demand that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The best citizens of the South deplore this violence and lawbreaking. Education is the only remedy that can reach the evil among the masses.

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

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