Legislation of the 1920s>A Lynching
LYNCHING By JULIETTE V. HARRING
following remarkable, though gruesome and barbarous, story, written
by a Southern white woman, a native of Virginia, was published
in the "Daily Telegraph," Macon, Ga., on September
the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill is awaiting final action by the Senate,
the following account of a typical Southern lynching by an eyewitness
may be of interest. I could name the State, but I will spare them
It was while he sat in his room by his lamp looking over his notes
and jotting down some ideas which are still fresh in his mind,
that he suddenly became conscious of that sense of alarm which
is always aroused by the sound of hurrying footsteps in the silence
of the night. He stopped writing and looked at his watch. It was
after eleven. He listened, straining every nerve to hear above
the tumult of his quickening pulse. He caught the murmur of voices,
then the gallop of a horse, then of another and another. He was
now thoroughly alarmed. After a moment he put out the light, softly
opened the window-blind, and cautiously peeped out. He saw men
moving in one direction, and from the mutterings he vaguely caught
a rumor that some terrible crime had been committed--murder! rape!
He put on his coat and hat; it was impossible to remain in the
house under such tense excitement. His nerves would not have stood
it. He went out, and, following the drift, reached the railroad
There was gathered a crowd of men: all white; others were steadily
arriving, seemingly from all the surrounding country. How did
the news spread so quickly? He watched these men moving under
the yellow glare of the lamps about the station, stern, comparatively
silent, all of them armed, some of them in boots and spurs; fierce,
determined men. He had come to know the type well--blond, tall
and lean, with ragged muscles and beard, and glittering gray eyes.
At the suggestion of daylight they began to disperse in groups,
going in several directions. There was no extra noise or excitement,
no loud talking, only swift, sharp words of command given by those
who seemed to be accepted as leaders by mutual understanding.
In fact, the impression made upon this man was that everything
was being done in quite an orderly manner. In spite of so many
leaving, the crowd around the station continued to grow: at sunrise
there were a great many women and children. By this time he also
noticed some colored people: a few seemed to be going about their
customary tasks; several were standing on the outskirts of the
crowd, but the gathering of negroes usually seemed in such towns
noon, they brought him in. Two horsemen rode abreast; between
them, half dragged, the poor wretch made his way through the dust.
His hands were tied behind him, and ropes around his body were
fastened to the saddle horn of his double guard. The men who at
midnight had been stern and silent were now yelling themselves
hoarse. A space was quickly cleared in the crowd, and a rope placed
about his neck, when from some one came the suggestion, "Burn
him." It ran like an electric current. Have you ever witnessed
the transformation of human beings into savage beasts? Nothing
can be more terrible. A railroad tie was sunk into the ground,
the rope was removed and a chain brought and securely coiled around
the victim and the stake. There he stood, a man only in form and
stature, every sign of degeneracy stamped upon his countenance.
His eyes were dull and vacant, no indication of a single ray of
though in his sluggish brain. Evidently the realization of his
fearful fate had robbed him of whatever reasoning power he had
ever possessed. He was too stunned and stupefied even to tremble.
was brought from everywhere, oil, the torch; the flames crouched
for an instant as though to gather strength then leaped up as
high as their victim’s head. He squirmed, he writhed, strained
at his chains, then gave out cries and groans that the man who
saw it says he shall always hear. The cries and groans were choked
by the fire and smoke; but his eyes, bulging from their sockets,
rolled from side to side, appealing in vain for help. Some of
the crowd yelled and cheered and cried, "You are burning
him too fast!" Others seemed appalled at what they had done,
and there were a few who turned away, sickened at the sight. The
horrified eyewitness was fixed to the post where he stood, powerless
to turn his eyes away from what he did not want to see. Before
he could make himself believe what was really happening, he was
looking at a scorched post, a smoldering fire, blackened bones,
charred fragments sifting down through coils of chain, and the
smell of burnt flesh--human flesh--was in his nostrils.
walked a short distance away, and sat down in order to clear his
dazed mind. When he decided to get up and go back to his room,
he found he could hardly stand on his feet. He was as weak as
a man who had lost blood. A wave of humiliation and shame swept
over him; shame for his country, that it the great example of
democracy to the world, should be the only civilized, if not the
only State on earth, where a human being could be burned alive
and with impunity be treated worse than animals.
a Southern woman from the State of Virginia, I am convinced that
the real South, the upright, intelligent people, regret these
outrages, but how long will the South remain silent? How long
will the South endure the limits which are placed on free speech?
How long will they cower and tremble under "Southern opinion"?
are slaves who fear to speak
For the friendless and the weak;
They are slaves who fear to be
In the right with two or three."
cry out in righteous indignation when we learn of the atrocities
practiced upon the Armenians by the Turks, and on the Jews by
the Russians; the cry for relief from suffering beyond our shores
is heard and ever responded to by generous America.
thousands of spires on churches of every denomination, running
high into the heavens, bear testimony that this is a Christian
nation, or at least purports to be, and yet, actual records tell
us that within the last thirty years we have lynched 3,436 human
beings--3,436 blots of shame on the United States. Most of these
lynchings occurred in the so-called Solid South, bringing disgrace
upon the entire Southern people, and condemnation from God and
man. I love the South with every fibre of my being and it is for
this reason that I am appealing to her people. The Southern people
are admired everywhere for their sterling qualities; and is it
not possible for them to band together and eradicate this cruel
realize that the details of this ghastly horror are revolting,
but I recite them that they may be brought home to you and that
the people of this country may rouse themselves and demand justice.
I could go on and tell you of case after case; I could tell you
of a negro being burned alive, while women with babies in their
arms made themselves comfortable and looked on without shame.
In another case the victim was tortured for three and one-half
hours, and the last sign of life did not disappear until a full
half hour later. Red-hot pokers were used to bore out the negro’s
eyes; hot irons dug gaping wounds in his back and sides, killing
him inch by inch.
abomination is spreading by leaps and bounds and must be stamped
out. Lawlessness begets lawlessness; tolerated and unrestrained
lawlessness invariably grows. The essence of lynching is not the
satisfaction of the law, but revenge, and revenge is an endless