Wednesday, August 3, 2016

June 26, 1899: Lynchings in the South

Today we have an article found in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, N. Y.) dated June 26, 1899:


Booker T. Washington Gives Some Statistics of These Crimes.

Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute writes a letter to the Montgomery, Ala., Advertiser, of which the following is an extract:

I fear that but few people in the South realize to what an extent the habit of lynching, or the taking of life without due process of law has taken hold of us and to what an extent it is not only hurting us in the eyes of the world but injuring our own moral and material growth. Lynching was instituted some years ago with the idea of punishing and checking outrage upon women. Let us examine the cold facts and see where it has already led us, and where it is likely further to carry us, if we do not rid ourselves of the habit. Many good people in the South and also out of the South have gotten the idea that lynching is resorted to for one crime only. I have the facts from an authoritative source. During last year 127 persons were lynched in the United States; of this 118 were executed in the South and 9 in the North and West; of the total number lynched 102 were negroes, 23 were whites and 2 Indians. Now let everyone interested in the South, his country and the cause of humanity note this fact—that only 24 of the entire number were charged in any way with the crime of rape; that is 24 of 127 cases of lynching. Sixty-one of the remaining cases were for murder, 13 for being suspected of murder, 6 for theft, etc. During one week last spring when I kept a careful record, thirteen negroes were lynched in three of our Southern states and not one was even charged with rape. All of these thirteen were accused of murder or house burning, but in neither case were the men allowed to go before a court so that their innocence or guilt might be proven. When we get to the point where four-fifths of the people lynched in our country, in one year, are for some crime other than rape, we can no longer plead and explain that we lynch for one crime alone. Let us take another year, that of 1892, for  example. During this year, 1892, 241 persons were lynched in the whole United States, 36 of this number were lynched in Northern and Western states and 186 in our Southern states. Of the 241 lynched in the whole country, 160 were negroes and 5 of these were women. The facts show that out of the 241 lynched in the entire country in 1892, but 57 were even charged with rape, or attempted rape, leaving in that year alone 184 persons who were lynched for other causes than that of rape. If it were necessary I could produce figures for other years. Within a period of six years about 900 persons have been lynched in our Southern states. This is but a few number short of the total number of soldiers who lost their lives in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. If we would realize still more fully how far this unfortunate habit is leading us, note the classes of crime, during a few months, which the local papers and the Associated Press reports say that lynching has been inflicted for—they include murder, rioting, incendiarism, robbery, larceny, self defense, insulting women, alleged stock poisoning, malpractice, alleged barn burning, suspected robbery, race prejudice, attempted murder, and horse stealing, mistaken identity, etc. The practice has grown until we are now at the point where not only blacks are lynched in the South, but white men as well. Not only this, but within the last six years at least half a dozen colored women have been lynched. And there are a few cases where negroes have lynched members of their own race. What is to be the end of this? What will the harvest of such a state of things be? Beside this, every lynching drives hundreds of negroes from the farming districts of the South, where they make the best living and where their services are of greatest value to the country, into the already overcrowded cities.

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


  1. What an interesting article, although Washington seems to imply that lynching wouldn’t be so bad if it were for rape alone, nor does he call attention to the prejudice behind using rape as an excuse for lynching. I wonder if duBois wrote any such articles.

    1. Washington truly believed that if black men would do what they were told and not bring attention to themselves then there truly would be no "race issue" in the South. He did place a lot of the blame on the wrong people. DuBois had some serious issues with what Washington preached. Unfortunately, it is harder to get a hold of the papers that he wrote to; Negro papers are less likely to have been digitized. Interesting enough, Washington's own son was chased out of Alabama under threat of lynching.

    2. "Washington's own son was chased out of Alabama under threat of lynching."

      It would have been enough to get me to leave! I have read enough by DuBois that I greatly respect him. I wish there were black leaders today of his stature (Sharpton and Jackon are clowns as I see them). I recall that DuBois' activism started when he saw a lynching.

      Still, I think you over simplify Washington. He thought that if--through attaining job skills and middle class lifestyles--black people became model citizens that their status would go up in white society. I even think there might be something to that, but it doesn't mean that lynchings and Jim Crow laws were justified, and I think that Washington would surely agree.

    3. DuBois was greatly affected by the Sam Hose lynching which occurred in Palmetto, Georgia on April 12, 1899. I haven't covered this lynching yet but do plan to in the future. It is a lynching that will take many hours of transcription so I prefer to wait until I have the time. I agree that DuBois was indeed a great man.

      I intentionally oversimplified Washington because I most definitely do not have the time to go into all the details and nuances of Washington. I would agree that he was on the right trail except that men were lynched and sentenced to the penitentiary and eventually working the mines for trumped up charges. It didn't matter if they were "respectable" or not. Without adressing the prejudices against them, there was no way to bring their status up.

      Washington offered DuBois a position in Tuskegee while at the same time sabotaging (in DuBois view) a position in D.C. that DuBois was seeking. DuBois turned down the Tuskegee position and DuBois criticized Washington saying "But so faras Mr. Washington apologizes for injustice, North or South, does not rightly value the privilege and duty of voting, belittles the emasculating effects of caste distinctions, and opposes the higher training and ambition of our brighter minds...we must unceasingly and firmly oppose them." Washington's response was to condemn DuBois stating, " If Atlanta University intends to stand for Dr. DuBois' outgivings, if it means to seek to destroy Tuskegee Institute, so that its own work can have success, it is engages in poor business."

      The most influentuial and important black figure fighting lynchings was, in my opinion, Ida B. Wells Barnett. She put herself at risk and could not return to the South because of her vociferous attacks against lynching.

      I don't claim to be an expert on any of this, I have only read and researched a great deal. So forgive me any mistakes I make. Also please forgive me any typos, I had to type most of this with my daughter's cat trying to lay on my keyboard.

    4. I hadn’t heard of Ida B. Wells Barnett, but I see that she was a fellow Mississippian, being born in Holly Springs where Joseph Holt Ingraham accidentally shot himself to death in the Episcopal church in which he was priest. She looks very pleasant in her photo on Wikipedia. Sometimes, I wonder if a person would be better remembered had she been a he. Certainly being black doesn’t help either.

      “I don't claim to be an expert on any of this”

      If that’s the case, then I want my money back! Then again, maybe you’re being overly modest here because you surely know far more than anyone who hasn’t devoted at least a portion of his or her post-graduate academic life to lynchings. As you know, my primary interest is in lynchings that occurred where I grew up because that’s how I am about history in general. I find these things hard to read about, and I wonder if the accounts affect me differently from how they affect you because it was your people who were the victims, and mine who were the murderers. Does what happened back then put a barrier between us today? When I lived in the South, and tried to make friends with black boys and men, they would share their anger toward my race with me when we became close, and that anger was so big that it would leave me feeling hopeless about them ever really caring about me as a person, so I would distance myself. I tended to end friendships easily back then anyway, but I was way over my head when it came to listening to someone rage against my race. I lacked the maturity, the wisdom, and even the courage. I took it personally, and didn’t feel that I deserved it. Even today, I don’t feel that I deserve blame for anything that I didn’t personally do, but I can certainly understand why those boys and men directed their anger at me. Behind their anger lay extraordinary grief, and had I been able to hang in there, we both might have gained. At least I like to think so.

      “So forgive me any mistakes I make.”

      If I may be so bold, I admire you, am very excited to have found your blog, and I look upon you as someone with whom I would hope to become friends. Except for an older half sister who grew up in Brookhaven—but not in the same house as I—I am cut off from my early life, and you are a connection, not just to what I experienced but to so much that I didn’t experience, but would now like to know about.

      On the subject of forgiveness… You write almost dispassionately because it is your goal to report rather than to emote, but I do emote, and I just don’t know if you will welcome this. These are heartbreaking things about which you write, and they bring up a million questions about the events, about the way they affected everyone who lived in those places where they occurred, and the way they affect you as having been someone who grew up in the same place and at the same time as I but on the other side of the fence, so to speak.

      “Also please forgive me any typos…”

      Editing probably creates as many mistakes as it eliminates. I have my wife, Peggy, proof
      read all of my posts, and I know very well how easily mistakes can sneak in, and then go hide when I look for them.

      “I had to type most of this with my daughter's cat trying to lay on my keyboard.”

      That’s sort of up there with, “My dog ate my homework,” is it not? Ha. I have two cats, but neither bother me much when I’m writing.

    5. I enjoy these conversations of ours. I like the intellectual discourse and finding out what other people's opinions on the subject are. I do write dispassionately because I want to put the contemporary information out there and not the remembered history. I want people to judge on their own and not on my opinions. However, I am very passionate about lynchings. I can talk my family's ear off and regularly do about lynchings. My son rarely reads my blog because he can't handle the darkness of it and I don't blame him. It hurts me too, I just feel driven by it.

      I don't tend to bring up race when it comes to myself and my blog, but I feel it is necessary to tell you you are mistaken. I, too, am white. I, too, grew up being blamed for the actions from the past. I know exactly the feeling of being blamed for something that you had no control over and happened before you even existed. When I was younger I felt angry, and now I try to feel understanding. This blog helps me understand why there has been so much anger and despair. I understand better how racism has affected so many in our nation and how I have been affected by privilege.

      My stating I am not an expert is because I have only a high school education and I do feel humility about being able to do the subject matter justice. I routinely ask my daughter, who has a masters in history, to read something I wrote to make sure I am not sounding like an idiot.

      I have four cats and they rarely bother me, except one likes to lay in front of the screen, but I can manage that. However, when I am catsitting for my daughter and son-in-law, one of their cats rubs all over my face and arms and continually walks on the keyboard. She makes working on the blog very difficult, but she and I work through it.

    6. I confused you with her ( You are both new to me.

      “This blog helps me understand why there has been so much anger and despair”

      I very much want to know and understand the black experience, but this doesn’t mean that I’m going to agree with how they tend to view the world today. To give an example, most blacks are going to think any given white cop is guilty of racism when he shoots a black man, a conclusion that is based upon the cop’s race, and is therefore the result of prejudice.

      “I have only a high school education and I do feel humility about being able to do the subject matter justice.”

      I have a total of nineteen years of formal education, but I flunked three grades in high school, and I didn’t attend challenging colleges or make especially good grades. GW Bush went through Yale, and even with that, he came out an idiot. In short, I’m not all that impressed with a college degree. My father was an eighth grade dropout, and he hated people with college degrees because he thought they were know-it-alls. Of course, he wanted me to get a degree so that I wouldn’t have to “work hard” like he had.

      My wife has a mild allergy to cats, a lot more so to the cat who sheds the most. If either cat rubs her face, she breaks out. I intentionally rub my face against our cats and kiss them many times a day. Before these two cats, we always had dogs—44 years of dogs—but we just burned out on how much work dogs were. We still love dogs, but we’ve grown to love cats too. Peggy used to have nightmares about cats and even said she hated cats, but I knew Peggy wasn’t capable of hating a cat, but was just having issues around them, which she would get over if she had a cat. I was right, but it’s not like I forced a cat on her, rather she picked our first cat, our big guy Brewsky. Our new cat is barely grown and weighs seven pounds less than Brewsky. He, Ollie, is a firecracker though and beautiful beyond words. The two cats wrestle, chase one another, and sleep with their legs around one another, and Ollie even tries to nurse Brewsky. Since Brewsky enjoys this, there’s not much we can do about it. We wouldn’t care so much if Ollie didn’t slurp, so we at least stop him if he’s around us. They’re indoor cats, which is all we will have because of the safety risk and the killing of wildlife.

      I enjoy our discussions too.

    7. We are crazy people and have two dogs and four cats. Of course, I am the one who has to take care of them the most because I am always here. Our cats are also indoor cats for the same reason as yours. My cats make me stuffy when they rubbed on my face, but I'm willing to put up with it. I feel like a house is not a home without a cat.

      I try not to see race in everything. I believe the police being militarized is a problem and things would work better if they were more involved in their communities and worked to foster trust. I think it is better to look at the whole situation instead of the races of people involved. There have, however, been too many shootings involving police and unarmed black people, but honestly, not all the police who are shooting are white.

  2. I always wonder about the women and children left in the communities after the lynchings and would like to know if they ever received compensation, or did they have to leave their familial community after the extralegal tragedy. ........My best friend has a little dog and I walk her dog; and her sister has a pretty cat and I have pictures of her cat on my cell phone; my boyfriend does not have animals but years ago he and his sister had a tiny dog. My besty is an older friend and I love to listen to countless stories about her dogs and cats. I spend my days in the library searching and researching and read everything MsAnneLast posts and one day I hope to speak with her.

    1. I wonder about that, too. Unfortunately, they papers are not very good at covering that aspect. I know the Baker family (Feb. 22, 1898 - Fraser B. Baker) did leave Lake City, SC after the lynching. Mainly because they were offered help by people in the North who found the lynching horrible. Many women and children lost their primary breadwinner and had a very hard time afterwards. Also, some of the families were chased out of town after the lynchings.

      I'm glad you are still enjoying my blog, but you know you will probably never hear my voice. I am not one to talk on the phone. I don't even answer the phone at home, someone else answers it or it goes to voicemail.

    2. “I don't even answer the phone at home”

      What is your problem with phones, if I may ask?

      I rarely get a call, so, except during business hours during the week (when doctors’ offices call), I let my wife answer the phone since it’s for her anyway. I used to be very shy about the phone, and she, Peggy, used to be worse than I, but both of us got over it. I went from being crippled by shyness to being very friendly even to strangers, so, I’m wondering if shyness is your problem. If it is, some of the modern anti-depressants can be a phenomenal help. My shyness ended with Zoloft, and I continued with this new, unexpected, and wonderful feeling of freedom even after I stopped the drug. As for Peggy, she took no drug, but she did gain in overall confidence as she aged. She’s also quite active socially since her retirement, so that no doubt helped.

    3. I am diagnosed with agoraphobia and general anxiety disorder. I love my Zoloft. I feel like my life didn't really start until I started taking it. Without it, I would not be doing this blog or conversing with you. Before being medicated, I could not leave my front porch without someone else with me. I do more than I ever did before, but I still have a ways to go. I think I have problems with the phone because I can't read body language through it. I do answer it if it is a local number, but mainly because it will most likely be a doctor's office. I have to work up to calling my own mother on the phone and I love her and want to talk to her. I'm also a very quiet person, so holding long conversations is exhausting to me. I'm not really shy, but people do tend to confuse my being quiet as shyness. At least, until I have something to say.

      I still don't like answering the door. I had gotten very good at it and then one day I answered it to a microphone at my face and a man with a camera standing toward the back. Apparently they were arresting my neighbor across the street, and I was not aware. I was playing with our puppy and there had been no sirens. Now I am very reticent to answer the door. Luckily, it is rare for someone to come to our door unless we are expecting them or someone is proselytizing.

    4. Anne, I’ve had a lot of different anti-depressants, but had been off them for years when I asked my doctor to go back on Zoloft. He suggested Lexapro instead. I think it does some good, but since I also take a lot of other drugs plus intermittent drinking, Lexapro’s ability to boost my moods is impeded. I live with a great deal of pain, so one of the other drugs I take is oxycodone, and it really messes with ones moods, making me feel great when I take it, and all but hysterical when it wears off. Alcohol makes it work better, allows me to take less of it, and makes coming down from it easier. Of course, the two aren’t supposed to be mixed, but having taken narcotics for a lot of years, I don’t worry much about getting in over my head. Right now, I’m doing a physically demanding job that really causes me to hurt, so yesterday, I took 80 mgs of oxy and drank a six pack. At this rate, I’ll run out of oxy way before the end of the month, and go into withdrawal. This is getting to be a monthly problem.

      I don’t answer the door unless (a) I can tell who it is through the peephole, or (b) I’m expecting someone. I don’t have your problem about this, but I just can’t remember ever answering the door to a stranger and being glad I did, because it’s always someone who wants to sell me religion or something else, or a canvasser. I also have safety concerns about answering the door to strangers, specifically a home invasion robbery.

      I used to find talking on the phone so hard that I could only do it on my good days. Now, I can do it anytime no matter what my mood. I know that the Zoloft was partly responsible for this, but having been off it for years, there might have been something else. I do know that I no longer care so much what people think of me. In fact, I hardly care at all as long as I’m respectful and considerate, which I try to be unless I perceive someone to be an ass. Not caring is a good thing because it allows me to be free, spontaneous, and honest.

    5. I am also learning not to care about what people think. It is very freeing and I am learning a lot about myself. I don't know if it's my medication, age or a little of both.

      I used to look out the peephole, but our door here has a big window instead of a peephole. When we first moved here, there were a lot of people being robbed by someone coming to their door and then forcing their way in when they answered it.

      I am uncomfortable answering the door and choose not to, but the phone causes panic attacks. I may eventually not feel that way, but for right now it is still a problem. It is a problem I can live with for the moment. I worry about making progress in other areas, the phone can wait.

    6. Anne, if I ever knew how old you are, I don’t remember it now, but I think you might be in your early sixties, so I would appreciate knowing what you think about the post I just put up. Did I miss much?

    7. I'm actually 47, but I thought the post was great. It gave me a personal insight into what it was like to be a Southerner at that time. My parents have never talked about their experiences. I could relate on many levels, though. I can not say enough how insightful I found your post, especially because it gave only what you personally experienced.

      When I was in elementary school in St. Petersburg, Fl, I knew of only two black girls in the school. I based my view on black people from an interaction with these girls one day on the playground. One started making fun of me and my first thought was black people are mean, then her sister told her to stop being mean I didn't do anything to them. My next thought was some black people are mean and some aren't. Because of this one experience, I have always tried to take people different than me on a one on one basis.

      In SC growing up I had black friends and I had black girls tease me. I had forgotten the incident, until a few years ago I went back to FL to help my mother with my grandfather. We were driving through St. Petersburg and my mother said, "Everything has changed so much. This used to be the black part of town." I had never thoguht about black people in St. Petersburg as a child, I only knew of the two (they were the adopted children of one of the teachers) and in my mind that was all that existed because my neighborhood was mainly old white people. I felt really stupid that it never occurred to me as an adult that there would have been a black part of town. In SC I went to a school that was over half black. I walked through a black neighborhood to go home from school.

      Now, why did I just tell you all that? I think it's because your post reminded me of it, and made me realize the different experiences I had growing up between Florida in the 70's and SC in the 80's. That is how great your post was, it brought me back to a time from my childhood as a southern child.

    8. “I felt really stupid that it never occurred to me as an adult that there would have been a black part of town”

      Children are just that way. At least, I was just that way. Looking back, I’m startled by all the things I didn’t notice and didn’t wonder about.

      If you don’t mind, put your response to my post on my blog. It might attract people to your blog, and it appeals to my vanity, and it might make other people think about their own experiences.

  3. I totally understand, but I am just a very hopeful person so you must forgive me for that Anne. You are a true blessing to me !