Lynching: A National Menace: The White South's Protest Against Lynching

Creator

Identifier

A081119

Description

Pamphlet by Principle of the Hampton Institute regarding lynching in the US

Source

National Archives and Records Administration 130/68/3/00 box #3 entry #5 "Negroes" folder

Publisher

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library

Language

English

Text

Lynching: A National Menace
The White South’s Protest Against Lynching

Hampton Institute, the well-known school for Negroes and Indians was founded by General Samuel Chapman Armstrong in 1868, on the shore of Hampton Roads, near Fort Monroe, Virginia.

It is an undenominational school, controlled by a board of seventeen trustees. The school property included about 1100 acres of land and 140 buildings, among which are a church, academic hall, library, dormitories, and buildings for the teaching for agriculture and the mechanical trades.

The number of students (1918-1919) is 1450, including Normal, Practice, and Summer Schools. The boarding pupils provide their own board and clothing, partly in cash and partly in labor at the school. But the great majority of students cannot pay their tuition, which is one hundred dollars per pupil. A scholarship may be endowed for $2500.

Many Sunday schools, associations, and friends of the two races are interested to give these scholarships, and larger or smaller sums year by year, according to their ability, and thus assist Hampton in raising the $135,000 necessary each year for current expenses in addition to its regular income. Sunday-school classes are also often interested in sending Christmas boxes to graduates teaching in the South or West.

Nearly 10,000 young people have had the benefit of Hampton’s ideals and training. They have for the most part gone back to the Western plains or to the Southern states, and there have become centers of influence- teachers, farmers, skilled mechanics, thrifty homemakers- leading their people more by deeds than by words to a higher plane of citizenship.

Lynching: A National Menace

By James E. Gregg

Principal of Hampton Institute

In any discussion of a subject which, as we commonly see it, is strongly colored by our instincts, our feelings, our prejudices, and our habitual motives, we shall gain much if we can begin, at least, by viewing it in the clear white light of truth. Let us try so to consider the matter of lynching. Let us be as dispassionate as we can. Let us be sure that our indignation when it rises, comes as a result of the facts, and not in defiance of them.

The first important circumstance to be noted and remembered is that lynching is not a Southern, but an American habit. A philosophical friend of mine once remarked to me, after a year spent in France, England, Germany, and Russia, that every nation has its own kind of violence, of which it thinks little or nothing, while it shudders at the violence of other nations. In our orderly United States, we express amazement over the turbulence of British public meetings; we still are horrified when we read of the bloody guillotines of the French Revolution; we do not forget the general outburst of righteous wrath against King Leopold of Belgium for his abominable cruelties in the Congo; our detestation of the cold-blooded Russian bureaucrats who send thousands of martyr-exiles to Siberia was quite as deep as our present angry contempt of the Bolsheviki; and our blood has boiled many times because of Turkish brutality and fiendishness. All this time, every one of these people has been shocked, and has not hesitated to say so, by our national fondness for putting supposed criminals to death without trial or other process of law. Our attitude toward German atrocities in Belgium and Northern France and the German retorts are simply the latest instance of this curious symptom. If anyone is disposed to deny that lynching is national rather than regional, the riots in East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1917, resulting in the death of over two hundred Negroes, and the horrible lynching at Coatesville, Pennsylvania, in 1911, should be sufficient to show that the burden does not rest on the South alone.

A second significant and usually unnoticed fact is that comparatively few of the persons lynched are even charged with assault or attempted assault- in 1918, 16 out of 62. This disposes of the idea that the motive of the mob is chivalrous determination to protect the honor of white women.

A third factor to be observed is that lynchings commonly occur in neighborhoods where education is backward and community standards are low. If Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and other Southern states have won a bad eminence in their record of lynchings, the reason may largely be found in the unenlightened conditions under which too many of their people, white and black, have been allowed to live.

A fourth fact is that the best men and women of the South are more and more realizing the shame of this evil. No Northerner has denounced it more fiercely than has ex-Governor Emmet O’Neal of Alabama. At the meeting of the Southern Sociological Congress in May at Knoxville, Professor Edwin Mims of Vanderbilt University spoke out with fiery eloquence. “Lynching,” he said, “is unjustifiable under all circumstances. It is wrong in the sight of man and God. It is a blot on our National escutcheon and is a menace to the whole country. It is an economic peril to the South. It is inexpedient, unwise, and a political mistake. Above all, it is a community and a National sin.
***

“When one set of people sets up a crime for which a lynching is justifiable, there is nothing to prevent another group of people from setting up another crime for which it considers lynching equally justifiable. A mob in action knows no law. It knows no reason. It is governed only by its passion at white heat. *** If the community cannot stop lynching, then the State can. If the State cannot stop lynching, then the Nation can- and WILL.”

There are multitudes of Southerners who are thinking like-wise- more than any of us realize. For several years past they have been worthily, bravely, and effectively represented by the University Commission on Southern Race Questions, a notable group of Southern collegiate teachers, whose utterances, restrained and reasonable, yet glowing with the fire of patriotism and conscience, are doing much to sober, enlighten, and educate the thoughtful people of the South. The Commission’s “open letter” of January 5th, 1916, declares that “lynching does more than rob its victims of their constitutional rights and of their lives. It simultaneously lynches law and justice and civilization, and outrages all the finer human sentiments and feelings. The wrong that it does to the wretched victims is almost as nothing compared to the injury it does to the lynchers themselves, to the community, and to society at large. Lynching is a contagious social disease, and as such is of deep concern to every American citizen and to every lover of civilization *** Civilization rests on obedience to law, which means the substitution of reason and deliberation for impulse, instinct, and passion.”

Fifth, and finally, we should all remind ourselves that not superciliousness, nor self-congratulation, not any sort of Pharisaic self-righteousness, nor any wholesale condemnation of others is going to cure this public disease, this social wickedness, this horrible perversion of loyalty to the common welfare. The only remedies are a sounder and broader education, made possible for all, a purer and truer religion, a more courageous public spirit on the part of civil officers, and a wiser, juster, more humane, feeling in the hearts of all the people. Northerners and Southerners, white men and Negroes, all have been at fault; all of us can do better; each of us can help the rest. The only way out is the way of mutual trust and good will.

The attitudes of the trustees of Hampton Institute has been recently expressed in the following resolution passes at their annual meeting on May 1, and transmitted to President Wilson:

“Resolved: That this Board desires to represent to the President of the United States the profound sense of humility and shame with which their constituency, both white and black, and at the South as well as the North, observes the continued practice of lynching, with its revolting horrors, and the resulting degradation of its perpetrators.

“We venture to urge that the President, having expressed in a letter in 1918 his deep concern for this National disgrace, continue to use his great influence to check the calamity; assuring him that such action will be welcomed by great numbers of citizens who are now seriously disquieted and alarmed.”

The White South’s Protest Against Lynching
A Press Symposium

The Duty of “Stay-At-Homes”

During the war there was a subsidence of lynching in the South, but now that peace has come to the world the industry is reviving. When will the conservatism of the South and when will the intelligence of the South assert itself in such a way to have the punishment of all crimes meted out in a court of law? When will the Southern people stop destroying themselves by lynching Negroes when it is so easy legally to punish the Negro malefactor?

The lynching business has become such a matter of course and the mob seems to sway such an influence that right-thinking men in a community are deterred from protesting. It has even become so that the newspapers pass lightly over these occurrences.

The lynching spirit has become so dominant that it is not “good form” to protest. If anyone does denounce what has been done, there is often an answer that he is not loyal to the doctrine of race superiority and that somehow he is an advocate of Negro equality.

Now we have engaged in a great war to make the world safe for democracy. Thousands of our young men have died that men may be free. Two million American soldiers went to France to put a stop to the torture of women and children, to the burning of homes, and to the pillaging of cities.
While these young men are in France seeking to restore peace and order should not our stay-at-homes, too, desist from organized lawlessness? The South will progress only when it becomes known by practice that, in this land, crime is punished legally; that crime is not permitted to go unpunished legally; and that the law proceeds, unshackled and untrammeled, in all these activities which make human life and human society safe and which make for the refinement as against the coarsening of men. – Commercial-Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.

White South’s Protest Against Lynching

A Disgraceful Record

Lynchings in the United States during the year 1918 show an increase of about 60 per cent over the number occurring in 1917. There were thirty-eight lynchings in 1917 and sixty-two in 1918, the increase being twenty-four. Fifty-eight of those put to death were Negroes and four were white persons, and among the victims were five women. These are the facts and figures compiled by Tuskegee Institute at Tuskegee, Ala.

Lynchings formerly were provoked by assaults by Negroes on white women, and there was a disposition to excuse the mob. Judge Lynch was thus encouraged to extend his jurisdiction. Statistics for recent years have shown that he is gradually doing that. He presumes now to usurp the functions of the courts in the punishment of all kinds and degrees of crimes; and he no longer draws the color line.

The lynchings in 1918, according to the records made up at Tuskegee, were for murder; for alleged complicity in murder; for threats to kill; for assault; for attempted assault; for alleged participation in a fight over an alleged hog-stealing; for killing an officer of the law; for assisting a man charged with murder to escape; for robbing a house and frightening women; for killing a man in a dispute about automobile repairs; for killing a landlord in a dispute over a farm contract; for assault with intent to murder; for wounding another; for robbery and resisting arrest. Only sixteen of the lynchings were for assault or attempted assault on women. Many of the crimes charged against the victims of the mobs were not punishable with death under the law, while some of them were only punishable with jail sentences or fines.
It was a disgraceful record that Judge Lynch was permitted to make in 1918, and there is no assurance that he will not be permitted to make a still more disgraceful record during the present year. Fifty-seven men, four of them white men, and five women- sixty-two people in all- were denied their day in court and put to death by mobs.

Many of these people had not committed capital crimes, while some of them were innocent of any crime. If possible, every member of every one of those mobs should have been brought to judgement in the courts they defied, but, so far as is known, no effort has been made to apprehend any of the lynchers. It may be that the Federal Government, realizing that State authorities will not uphold the law against the mob, will eventually take steps to enforce the clause of the Federal Constitution which provides that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty without due process of law. –Courier, Bristol, Va.

White South’s Protest Against Lynching
A Hopeful Incidence

Not in a long while has there been a more hopeful incident connected with a rather hopeless subject than the conviction in North Carolina of fifteen out of sixteen mob members, tried on the charge of having invaded the pale at Winston-Salem in the effort to take therefrom and lynch a Negro charged with the “usual crime.”

In the first place there was found a judge courageous enough to grant a change of venue, which would prevent the farce of a trial in the locality in which the public mind was not centered on the crime that the mob undertook to avenge and not at all on that which the mob committed in the method of riot and anarchy which it adopted.

In the second place there was found in Surry County a jury of white men who had the mental power and the moral force to withstand the appeals of the oratory with which they must have been overwhelmed, and to punish as the most grievous of offenses against the law the act of those who would have usurped its right to impose punishment.

Homilies against lynching are obviously founded and easily said. Denunciation of mobs in the abstract is almost an obligation of the state of respectability. It is a different matter, and an exceptional instance, to give the homily and the denunciation effect by verdict and sentence. We are getting nearer to the civilization of deeds instead of talks when such a thing becomes possible.

To The Chicago Tribune and those other members of the Western and Northern press, so fond of crying out upon Southern lynchings, let us commend for praise the Surry County jury and judge that put the law on the men who presumed to make it an agent of lawlessness.

But beyond dealing by the law’s punishment with the mob that usurps the function of the law is the one more step to be taken against the principle of the mob that insidiously affects and ultimately weakens the spirit of the law to the mob’s creation. We denounce the legal anarchists who raid and punish a criminal; we rejoice in the rare instances when they are punished.

But do we not incite this very spirit of the mob’s lust to punish outside the law when, for the sake of expediency, prosecuting officers, judges, popular sentiment excuse lawless acts on the part of officers who are sworn to obey the law, whose obligation it is most strictly to observe it, yet who excuse its disregard on the plea that thereby the ends of justice are conserved?

Is there logical difference between the officer who makes an unwarranted arrest on the chance of catching a criminal for a crime yet undisclosed and the mob that charges a jail to hang a man because he ought to be hung? –Daily Press, Newport News, Va.
White South’s Protest Against Lynching

A Crime of Violence

Many years ago Booker T. Washington undertook to keep a list of lynchings in the United States showing the color and sex of victims and the provocation of the crimes. Tuskegee Institute has continued the record. It shows that during the first six months of the year 1918 there were thirty-five lynchings, against fourteen for the corresponding period in 1917. Only one victim was white; three were women; and only eight of the thirty-five persons murdered by mobs were charged with rape.

The record is highly educative; it has shown every year that lynching is a crime of violence indulged in by mobs and that it cannot be classified as irregular punishment of assaulters, because the victims are in many cases not charged with assault. Less than one-fourth of them during the last six months were lynched upon that charge. It should be borne in mind that lynchers do not wait for proof, but oftimes they kill a victim against whom evidence to support the charge is slight.

The only lynching which occurred north of the Ohio during the first half of the year 1918 was in Illinois. The victim was a supposed German sympathizer against whom the charges made by the mob were not supported by evidence discovered by investigations after his death.
It is not always, or usually, true that all of the lynchings during a period of six months occur in the South, and it is true that there are about as many lynchings of Negroes in the North as in the South in proportion to the Negro populations of the two sections.

As proof that the common defense of lynching is fatuous, the Tuskegee record, showing how often the victim of mob violence is charged with a crime other than assault, is worth the effort its making involves. It serves admirably as unassailable “publicity,” controverting the often-made statement that “lynching is due to the passionate resentment of respectable citizens when crimes against women have been committed.”
-Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.

General Lee’s Example

Somewhere we read that it is better to do the will than to name the name. In vain do we eulogize the name of Lee, unless we learn the lessons his life and wisdom could teach us. Some years ago John Morley, the English statesman and historian, declared the problem of the South- the Negro problem- to be the most gigantic, the most complex, and the most far-reaching problem that confronted any people.

What may we learn from Robert E. Lee about this problem? Capt. R. E. Lee in his “Recollections and Letters of General Lee,” tells us that, while his father was president of Washington College, a student was shot by a Negro in a street disturbance in Lexington. It was reported that in the case of the young man’s death the murderer would be summarily dealt with by his collegemates. President Lee wrote a letter to Mr. G. B. Strickler, president of the Young Men’s Christian Association, in which he said:

“I have just been informed by Captain Wagner, military commissioner of this district, that, from information received by him, he had reason to apprehend that should the wound received by Mr.------ prove fatal, the students of Washington College contemplate taking from jail the man who shot him and inflicting upon him his summary punishment.
***

“I feel convinced that none would countenance such outrage against law and order, but that all will cheerfully submit to the administration of justice by the legal authorities.
***

I earnestly invoke the students to abstain from any violation of the law, and to unite in preserving quiet and order on this and every occasion.”

May we not learn from Robert E. Lee that the religious and law-abiding must solve this most complex problem?
-John T. Fitzgerald, News, Lynchburg, Va.

Crime Against the Law

The entire country was shocked at the recent lynching of four Negroes, at Shutuba, Miss., and no section has been more outspoken in its condemnation than the South. That this crime against the law should be perpetrated at this time of the year when we are taught “good-will to all” and when humanity is working harmoniously to create a universal feeling of peace and order, is deplorable. The fact that two young Negro girls were among the victims of the mob intensified the feeling of indignation. No excuse could be offered for the violation of the law; there was not the slightest difficulty in arresting, trying, convicting, and punishing the Negro who was guilty of Dr. Johnson’s murder.

At this time when the world is aroused against the deeds of violence, and determined and organized to enforce the reign of law, it is unfortunate that it should have been to face a wholesale lynching like that at Shutuba.
As between the two elements- those who are seeking to stir up trouble by arousing racial bitterness, and those guilty of “lynching” against the law and the peace and the order of the community- there is a strong element in the South working hard and earnestly to suppress lynchings and to leave justice to the courts.
These efforts for law and order are seriously handicapped and undone by the disorderly elements. That there has been a great improvement of late is evident. Conditions promise still further great improvements.
In the lights of this advance, the Shutuba lynching comes as a shock against which all friends of the South and good-will between the whites and blacks should and do protest.
-Times-Picayune, New Orleans, La.

An Appalling Record

Sixty-two lynchings in the year 1918- twenty-four more than in 1917. An appalling record indeed! The facts were compiled by Monroe N. Work of Tuskegee Institute, who is recognized as a painstaking statistician. He has been keeping the record of lynchings for many years past and his reports are accepted everywhere as trustworthy.
Most of the lynchings in 1918 were in the cotton belt, and all but four of the victims were Negroes. Included in the number were five females. It used to be that assaults on white women were the crime for which swift punishment was meted out, but in recent years mobs have put Negroes to death for various offenses; some of them comparatively trivial. Of the Negroes lynched during the year 1918 only sixteen were charged with criminal assault.

Georgia, with eighteen lynchings, heads the list of states guilty of lawlessness. Louisiana and Texas come next with nine each. Alabama had only four; but it was four too many.

In reconstruction days, when brutish crimes against women were more frequent than they are now, public sentiment was usually on the side of the lynchers. But conditions have improved and the attitude of the people toward lynching has changed. Every man charged with any kind of felony should be tried and punished by law and without the law’s delays.

Lynching reacts upon the community in which it takes place. Lawlessness unrestrained is like a corroding ulcer. It eats into our boasted civilization and every manifestation of mob action is far-reaching in its brutalizing effect on society in general. Moral standards are lowered and respect for law is reduced to a minimum.
The good people in Georgia and the good people of all the other states, where lynchings have occurred, should arise up in a determined effort to banish Judge Lynch forever.

Georgia surely needs a campaign of education and remolding of public sentiment. That state can ill afford to have a repetition of its lynching record for 1918.
-Age-Harold, Birmingham, Ala.

State Shame and Discredit

Before me I have an issue of the Advertiser containing an Associated Press dispatch giving the number of lynchings during the year 1918, as annually compiled by the Tuskegee Institute.
Knowing how persistently and honestly you have striven in your paper against this monstrous crime, I take the liberty of asking you to publish this communication.
***

Instead of diminishing, the crime of lynching is on the increase. The number of states in which lynchings occurred were sixteen, with Georgia in the lead in the list of dishonor.
***

While lynchings occurred in many sections and cannot be called entirely sectional, yet the fact remains, nevertheless, that out of the sixteen states enumerated, twelve of them are in the Southern states and the victims comprise fifty-eight Negroes and four whites, so the venom of the lynchers was principally directed against Negroes.

As to the causes, when lynching first came into vogue, rape was the principal factor that brought on lynching; but, later on, it comprised any kind of offense, from rape to hog-stealing and resisting an officer.

There are a handful of lawless men in each community who are at any time ready to tear down the temples of justice and bring shame and discredit upon their community and state. They care little about the guilt of the accused and with them accusation is evidence of guilt.

I cite a case in point which happened in this country a few years ago, when several Negroes were accused of poisoning horses, which was a very dastardly deed. They were arrested, tried, and acquitted for want of evidence. Some time later they were taken from their homes, under cover of night, and put to death.

Will those who participate in lynchings ever realize that each person who takes an active part in such proceedings has taken a human life without sanction of law and is a murderer? And those who aid and abet them by their approval or silence cannot be classed as good citizens. I hope, Mr. Editor, you will continue to help create a public sentiment which will cause our grand and petit juries to convict these law-breakers wherever the evidence is warranted.

Let it be said in honor of the State executive and the judiciary, that they have put forth their best efforts to reduce and put down this terrible evil. –S. Zadek, Advertiser, Montgomery, Ala.

A Menace to Civilization

The lynching record of the year just closed carried by the Associated Press, and published in the Constitution, shows that Georgia leads all other states, with eighteen lynchings to its discredit, or twice as many as any other state.

The list in which lynchings occurred during 1918, with the number of such crimes committed in each state, is as follows: Alabama, 3; Arkansas, 2; California, 1; Florida, 2; Georgia, 18; Illinois, 1; Kentucky, 1; Louisiana, 9; Mississippi, 6; North Carolina, 2; Oklahoma, 1; South Carolina, 1; Tennessee, 4; Texas, 9; Virginia, 1; Wyoming, 1. This list was compiled by the Department of Records and Research of the Tuskegee Institute, and is accepted as being authentic, as the accuracy of its statistics in this respect has never been assailed.

It is certainly approximately correct, and the showing should bring the blush of shame to the cheek of every Georgian who is proud of his state and sensitive to any disparagement of its good name!

In only sixteen of the forty-eight states did any lynchings occur during the year just closed. The total number was sixty-two, or twenty-four more than during 1917. Georgia headed the list in 1917; and, as if determined not to be outdone, comes forward with eighteen lynchings to its discredit for 1918, with its nearest competitors standing neck-and-neck with nine each- the record of both combines equaling that of Georgia alone.
Of course Georgia will receive its due quota of publicity as a result of this discreditable record of outlawry. For years the Constitution has been engaged in an effort to arouse a sentiment in this state that would stamp out lynching and mob violence.

The time was when lynching was resorted to as punishment for only one offense; and when it was most exceptional that a lynching occurred for any other than that one cause. Whenever there was a lynching for that cause those who conducted it took the position that it would never be resorted to for any other.

“The Constitution then expressed a warning that, if mob law were tolerated in any instance and for any cause, it would surely spread; and that it eventually would get beyond bounds; that it was only a step from lynching for that one type of crime to mob law for less heinous offenses. Our prediction has come true, as is shown by the fact that, of the eighteen lynchings that occurred in this state last year, only a small proportion of the number bore than relation whatever to the offenses for which lynching was ever accorded any measure of justification!

Now we find lynching resorted to as punishment for even robbery and petty crime. Either the public sentiment of Georgia must put an end to lynching, and restore universal power and authority of law, or else mob law is going to pull down the civilization of this state!
Time and time again the Constitution has sounded the warning that, if the state does not meet its obligations in this respect, the Federal Government will step in and do the work itself, because no State in the Union is going to be permitted thus to blacken the National escutcheon. The worst feature of the lynching record of Georgia s that every year it grows worse, and the State seems to be helpless. Again we appeal to the better people of Georgia, to waken! – Constitution, Atlanta, Ga.

Disrespect for Law

Lynchings are on the increase, according to the statistics compiled by the Division of Records and Research of the Tuskegee Institute. *** Like the malaria handicap, lynching still persists- and that is the real question. It is, we believe, generally falling off in its totals. But this is a long way from that entire extermination of the poison, which is an absolute essential, if we are to have even approximate normal health in the body politic.
The decline in lynching is largely the result of an improved race relation, resulting in part from changed industrial conditions that have influenced, if not compelled, kindlier and more tolerant relations. There has been a marked reduction of crimes which lead to lynchings- a reduction mainly consequent upon prohibition.
The unsatisfactory feature of the decrease in criminality and lynchings is that it is largely due to other causes, we apprehend, than respect for law. That disrespect is the ailment that calls for correction, and the lynching recurrence is a main obstruction in the pathway of reform and betterment. Legislation may offer no panacea, but it is certain that as a remedy for lynching it has not been exhausted in some states. South Carolina has a law which Georgia does not; and Georgia has for some years been exceeding South Carolina in lynchings. This may be coincidence, but it would be reasonable to assume that a stringent law, with a record of its enforcement, upon officers who do not prevent lynching possesses merit. Virginia has been wholly removed from the lyching states, mainly, it is contended, through dread of a law giving the State the right of changing the venues in criminal cases. All of the apparent restraints had better be enacted than to risk the conference of jurisdiction in lynching cases on the Federal courts- a certain ultimate resort for the prevention of crime. – Herald, Vicksburg, Miss.

Georgia Women’s Protest

Resolutions condemning lynching as a means of punishing crime of “any name or character” have been unanimously passed by the executive board of the Georgia Federation of Women’s Clubs. This action was taken at a recent meeting of the board, which was held at the home of Mrs. Nellie Peters Black, State president. The State Federation now consists of 370 clubs located in every section of Georgia and the entire membership is over 25,000. The officers of these clubs have been urged to bring these resolutions on lynching to the attention of their members, and to ask each one to use her influence to “remove this curse from Georgia.”

All the members of the Federation are working for the good of Georgia and their interest in the upbuilding of the Negro race is one of their most important issues. A series of cooking schools in the larger cities of Georgia has already begun. This is only one of a number of steps taken by the federation in its efforts to aid the Negro. The resolutions follow:

“Whereas, lynching substitutes the violent passions of the mob for the orderly processes of the courts of justice, thus creating in the minds of our people disrespect for all law; and,
“Whereas, the fair name of our State has been grievously injured and its development retarded by the publication abroad of lynching statistics which misrepresent the overwhelming majority of our law-abiding and peace-loving citizens; and,
“Whereas, it is in the power of the enlightened women of the State to create a public sentiment in favor of law and against the continued blight of mob violence; therefore be it
“Resolved, that the executive board of the Georgia Federation of Women’s Clubs hereby records its unqualified condemnation of lynching as a means of punishing crime of any name of character; and further be it

“Resolved, that we request the officers of the clubs throughout the state to bring this matter to the attention of their members and urge them to use their influence in every proper way to remove this curse from Georgia.”
-Constitution, Atlanta, Ga.

An Economic Drawback

There is a great deal said about attracting sturdy Western people to the untenanted acres of the South; but we defeat our own purposes when we sanction contempt of law and resorts to violence. The Western people have quite a different idea of what is good citizenship and they seriously doubt the wisdom of settling in a land where the laws are flouted and no one is brought to punishment for doing so. They cannot understand that life and property as a general thing, are as safe with us as in any other parts of the country. They judge by what they read in the papers and, so judging, decline the proposals to move into the South.
Thus it is said that lynching does us incalculable harm on the economic side. It hurts also since it is interpreted as the evidence of a low state of civilization. The few who are lawless have the power to cast discredit upon the whole Southern people.

The way to escape is through the creation and establishment of sound public opinion. The thing is possible, as we see exemplified in Virginia. Let self-respecting people speak out against this form of crime; let grand juries indict and the courts try and convict the law-breakers, no longer making excuses, but recognizing that lynching is an unmitigated evil and must be blotted out.
-Journal, Montgomery, Ala.

Get Rid Of Cowardice

George W. Dayton of the Fourth District has introduced in the Texas Senate an anti-lynching bill that is excellent. It should tend very far toward prevention of this generally destructive crime, because of the pains and penalties it would bring against the lyncher, the mobbist and the people of the county wherein they commit their murderous, anarchistic atrocities.

On its own merits, Senator Dayton’s measure speedily should be enacted into law. It should meet with no opposition from any intelligent member of either house who, knowing how his State is cursed at home and defamed abroad by the barbarous horrors and public record of its many crimes of lynching, shall determine to make good his constitutional oath to perform, “faithfully,” the duties of his legislative office “agreeably to the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State.”
**

Therein it is provided plainly that participants in a mob which commits a killing- which brings about a death- shall be chargeable with murder, and on that charge shall be tried, not in their home county, but in Travis County, and shall be prosecuted by the Attorney General and his assistants, regular or special. Even if- for a wonder!- indictments should be returned against the lynch-murderers by the grand jury of the county wherein the crime was committed, trial venue must be had in, and the case at once transferred to, Travis County.

It is also provided that “in every case prosecuted under this act in which the defendant or defendants are convicted of the offense of mob violence, resulting in death, the county in which the mob violence was committed shall be held responsible in damages to the dependent relations of the person or persons so killed by mob violence in the amount and to the extent of $5000.” And the plaintiffs in such civil suit, subsequently brought against the county- and this means the taxpayers!- that tolerated the murderous anarchy may have their claim for the county’s $5000 damage liability tried in the District Court of Travis County, if they so elect!

This is the sound, workable, imperatively necessary design of the bill: The lyncher, the mobbist, shall be indicted, tried, convicted, and punished as a murderer when death has resulted from his lawless violence; or shall be prosecuted for a felonious “assault by mob violence,” when his lawlessness resulted merely in injury, not in death; and the county that was the scene of such crimes, respectively, shall pay $5000 to the relatives of the murdered person or $2500 to the feloniously assaulted person himself. Moreover, the Governor shall pay rewards ranging, in their aggregate on each case of mob violence, from $5000 to $10,000, according to the circumstances that obtained in the giving of information and in the direct responsibility for arrest and conviction of the lynchers.

Above all, this bill seeks to remedy either the local criminal negligence of doing nothing by law, and under the law, when a case of lynching savagery or other mob violence occurs, or those familiar investigations, wherein there is much faking, “ fourflushing,” grandstand-playing by local authorities, that really do nothing and get nowhere- and are meant to do nothing and get nowhere.

This bill seeks to make of the legal business and duty of punishing guilt for a frightful crime- and punishing it both criminally and civilly- a proposition of actually meaning business, and of actually doing official duty!

This bill, at last, seeks to remove personal or political cowardice, the fear of local interests and local resentment, the expediency of local nonfeasance or misfeasance or even malfeasance with regard to lynching crimes, from their longtime place as barriers in the way of upholding the Federal and State Constitutions and of enforcing the Texas penal laws. ***

Let us, through submissive action by this Legislature, vote to join the lyncher with the duelist and the political corruptionist as being an enemy to the Commonwealth, whom it would be utterly unsafe, unjust, demoralizing, and degrading to admit to the rights of voter and public officer- Express, San Antonio, Texas

Original Format

Pamphlet

Files

A081119.pdf

Citation

Gregg, James E., “Lynching: A National Menace: The White South's Protest Against Lynching,” 1919 August 11, A081119, Race and Segregation Collection, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.