Digital History>eXplorations>Lynching>Anti-Lynching Legislation of the 1920s>Governor Carey to James Johnson


Governor Robert Carey's Letter to James Weldon Johnson March 17, 1922

Source: NAACP Papers, Library of Congress

"… I do not believe in lynching under any consideration, and further I do not believe in mob rule. No citizen or community should have the right to take the law into their own hands and it is much better to permit guilty men to escape than that innocent men should be punished. It is disgraceful that in certain sections of this country local authorities will not attempt to enforce the law and particularly that they will willingly turn over to a mob persons to be lynched. I cannot conceive how the Governor of any State will make no effort to protect the lives of people threatened, with lynching and, where local authorities either refuse to do their duty or are unable to do so, will not lend the assistance of the State government to stop outrages such as lynchings are. It is not that I approve of mob rule of lynchings that I do not want to subscribe to the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, but solely for the reason that I believe the Federal Government, as well as the Federal Courts, are constantly encroaching upon the rights of States. If the Federal Government has power to legislate to prevent lynchings, it probably has the power to legislate on any matter in which Congress does not happen to be in accord with the State Governments. In other words, it can supersede both State Courts and State Governments. I have never felt that the men who were responsible for this country and its constitution had any such thought in mind, but rather that the States should be permitted to conduct their own business as they saw fit. No doubt the situation as regards lynching is not only most disgraceful but very serious in many states, yet I believe that there are enough decent citizens in any community that if a proper campaign was made the states themselves would clean house and bring about better conditions."

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