The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP
In 1916, a crowd of ten to fifteen thousand cheering spectators watched as seventeen-year-old Jesse Washington, a retarded black boy, was publicly tortured, lynched, and burned on the town square of Waco, Texas. He had been accused and convicted in a kangaroo court for the rape and murder of a white woman. The city's officials watched Washington's torture and murder and did nothing. Nearby, a professional photographer took pictures to sell as mementos of that day. The stark story and gory pictures were soon printed in The Crisis, the monthly magazine of the fledgling NAACP, as part of that organization's campaign for anti-lynching legislation. Even in the vast bloodbath of lynchings that washed across the South and Midwest during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Waco lynching stood out. The NAACP assigned a young white woman, Elisabeth Freeman, to travel to Waco to investigate, and the evidence she gathered and gave to W. E. B. Du Bois provided grist for the efforts of the NAACP to raise national consciousness of the atrocities being committed and to raise funds to lobby anti-lynching legislation. newspapers and archives, and interviews with the descendants of participants in the events of that day, Patricia Bernstein has reconstructed the details of not only the crime but also its aftermath. She has charted the ways the story affected the development of the NAACP and especially the eventual success of its antilynching campaign. She searches for answers to the questions of how participating in such violence affected the lives of the mob leaders, the city officials who stood by passively, and the community that found itself capable of such abject behavior.
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American Anti-Lynching Campaign April arrested attorney Baylor University Bob Buchanan Bois's Brann burned confession court courtroom crime Crisis crowd Dallas death editorial Elisabeth Freeman fact Frazier George Fryer Gildersleeve hanging Ibid interview jail Jesse Washington Joel Spingarn Johnson July June jury Kesler killed later letter Lucy Fryer lynch mob lynchers lynching of Jesse Mary White Ovington mayor McLennan County McNamara Moorfield Storey murder NAACP Nation newspaper Oswald Garrison Villard Ovington Peabody photographs police race rape reports Robinson Rosika Schwimmer Roy Mitchell Royal Freeman Nash Sank Majors says seems Sheriff Fleming Sironia Smith South Spingarn Stegall story Street suffragist Swift Vengeance Wreaked Texas told took town trial vote W. E. B. Du Bois Waco Horror Waco Lynching Waco Morning Waco Semi-Weekly Tribune Waco Times Herald Waco Tribune Herald Waco's Wacoans Walling wife William English Walling woman women women's suffrage Wreaked on Negro York young Zadie