UCLA Southern Horrors Essay


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HST Short Writing Assignment #2
Assignment Length: 50 words maximum.
You are not expected to do any additional research beyond the assigned course materials in order to successfully
complete this assignment.
Prompt: In a single sentence of no more than 50 words, identify what you see as Ida B. Wells’s main
argument in Chapter 6 of Southern Horrors. (Source provided on Blackboard)
Keys to Success
(1) The primary task in this assignment is to complete a clear and succinct exposition of Wells’s core
argument (as you see it). The goal is a short, but thoughtful treatment of what you see as the main
thing she is attempting to persuade her reader about in the chapter.
(2) Avoid attempting a summary of all of her points in the chapter or attempting to identify her
“thesis sentence.” Take a step back and instead address what the overarching goal/purpose of the
chapter appears to be.
(3) For the purposes of this assignment, this is a hard cap of a single sentence of no more than 50
words. Responses that go over this threshold will receive no better than a “Check” grade. This is
an exercise emphasizing concise and effective assessment and interpretation of an author’s work.
Black Thought and Culture
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Wells-Barnett, Ida Bell, 1862-1931, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All It’s Phases. (The New York Age Print, Not indicated, 1892). [Author Information] [Bibliographic Details]
Table of Contents
Title Page and Credits
Hon. Fred. Douglass’s Letter
Chapter I: The Offense
Chapter II: The Black and White of it
Chapter III: The New Cry
Chapter IV: The Malicious and Untruthful White Press
Chapter V: The South’s Position
Chapter VI: Self Help
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Title Page and Credits
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Price, – – – Fifteen Cents.
— 50 —
The greater part of what is contained in these pages was published in the New York Age June 25, 1892, in explanation of the editorial which the Memphis whites considered sufficiently
infamous to justify the destruction of my paper, The Free Speech.
Since the appearance of that statement, requests have come from all parts of the country that “Exiled,” (the name under which it then appeared) be issued in pamphlet form. Some
donations were made, but not enough for that purpose. The noble effort of the ladies of New York and Brooklyn Oct 5 have enabled me to comply with this request and give the world a
true, unvarnished account of the causes of lynch law in the South.
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This statement is not a shield for the despoiler of virtue, nor altogether a defense for the poor blind Afro-American Sampsons who suffer themselves to be betrayed by white Delilahs. It is
a contribution to truth, an array of facts, the perusal of which it is hoped will stimulate this great American Republic to demand that justice be done though the heavens fall.
It is with no pleasure I have dipped my hands in the corruption here exposed. Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to
have fallen upon me to do so. The awful death-roll that Judge Lynch is calling every week is appalling, not only because of the lives it takes, the rank cruelty and outrage to the victims,
but because of the prejudice it fosters and the stain it places against the good name of a weak race.
The Afro-American is not a bestial race. If this work can contribute in any way toward proving this, and at the same time arouse the conscience of the American people to a demand for
justice to every citizen, and punishment by law for the lawless, I shall feel I have done my race a service. Other considerations are of minor importance.
New York City, Oct. 26, 1892.
Ida B. Wells.
To the Afro-American women of New York and Brooklyn, whose race love, earnest zeal and unselfish effort at Lyric Hall, in the City of New York, on the night of October 5th, 1892, -made possible its publication, this pamphlet is gratefully dedicated by the author.
— 51 —
Hon. Fred. Douglass’s Letter
Dear Miss Wells:
Let me give you thanks for your faithful paper on the lynch abomination now generally practiced against colored people in the South. There has been no word equal to it in convincing
power. I have spoken, but my word is feeble in comparison. You give us what you know and testify from actual knowledge. You have dealt with the facts with cool, painstaking fidelity and
left those naked and uncontradicted facts to speak for themselves.
Brave woman! you have done your people and mine a service which can neither be weighed nor measured. If American conscience were only half alive, if the American church and clergy
were only half christianized, if American moral sensibility were not hardened by persistent infliction of outrage and crime against colored people, a scream of horror, shame and
indignation would rise to Heaven wherever your pamphlet shall be read.
But alas! even crime has power to reproduce itself and create conditions favorable to its own existence. It sometimes seems we are deserted by earth and Heaven — yet we must still
think, speak and work, and trust in the power of a merciful God for final deliverance.
Very truly and gratefully yours,
Cedar Hill, Anacostia, D.C., Oct. 25, 1892.
Frederick Douglass.
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Chapter III: The New Cry
The appeal of Southern whites to Northern sympathy and sanction, the adroit, insiduous plea made by Bishop Fitzgerald for suspension of judgment because those “who condemn
lynching express no sympathy for the white woman in the case,” falls to the ground in the light of the foregoing.
From this exposition of the race issue in lynch law, the whole matter is explained by the well-known opposition growing out of slavery to
— 60 -the progress of the race. This is crystalized in the oft-repeated slogan: “This is a white man’s country and the white man must rule.” The South resented giving the Afro-American his
freedom, the ballot box and the Civil Rights Law. The raids of the Ku-Klux and White Liners 2 to subvert reconstruction government, the Hamburg and Ellerton, S.C., the Copiah County
Miss., and the Lafayette Parish, La., massacres 3 were excused as the natural resentment of intelligence against government by ignorance.
Honest white men practically conceded the necessity of intelligence murdering ignorance to correct the mistake of the general government, and the race was left to the tender mercies of
the solid South. Thoughtful Afro-Americans with the strong arm of the government withdrawn and with the hope to stop such wholesale massacres urged the race to sacrifice its political
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rights for sake of peace. They honestly believed the race should fit itself for government, and when that should be done, the objection to race participation in politics would be removed.
But the sacrifice did not remove the trouble, nor move the South to justice. One by one the Southern States have legally (?) disfranchised the Afro-American, and since the repeal of the
Civil Rights Bill nearly every Southern State has passed separate car laws with a penalty against their infringement. The race regardless of advancement is penned into filthy, stifling
partitions cut off from smoking cars. All this while, although the political cause has been removed, the butcheries of black men at Barnwell, S.C., Carrolton, Miss., Waycross, Ga., and
Memphis, Tenn., have gone on; also the flaying alive of a man in Kentucky, the burning of one in Arkansas, the hanging of a fifteen year old girl in Louisiana, a woman in Jackson, Tenn.,
and one in Hollendale, Miss., until the dark and bloody record of the South shows 728 Afro-Americans lynched during the past 8 years. Not 50 of these were for political causes; the rest
were for all manner of accusations from that of rape of white women, to the case of the boy Will Lewis who was hanged at Tullahoma, Tenn., last year for being drunk and “sassy” to white
— 61 -These statistics compiled by the Chicago “Tribune” were given the first of this year (1892). Since then, not less than one hundred and fifty have been known to have met violent death at
the hands of cruel bloodthirsty mobs during the past nine months.
To palliate this record (which grows worse as the Afro-American becomes intelligent) and excuse some of the most heinous crimes that ever stained the history of a country, the South is
shielding itself behind the plausible screen of defending the honor of its women. This, too, in the face of the fact that only one-third of the 728 victims to mobs have been charged with
rape, to say nothing of those of that one-third who were innocent of the charge. A white correspondent of the Baltimore Sun declares that the Afro-American who was lynched in
Chestertown, Md., in May for assault on a white girl was innocent; that the deed was done by a white man who had since disappeared. The girl herself maintained that her assailant was a
white man. When that poor Afro-American was murdered, the whites excused their refusal of a trial on the ground that they wished to spare the white girl the mortification of having to
testify in court.
This cry has had its effect. It has closed the heart, stifled the conscience, warped the judgment and hushed the voice of press and pulpit on the subject of lynch law throughout this “land
of liberty.” Men who stand high in the esteem of the public for christian character, for moral and physical courage, for devotion to the principles of equal and exact justice to all, and for
great sagacity, stand as cowards who fear to open their mouths before this great outrage. They do not see that by their tacit encouragement, their silent acquiescence, the black shadow
of lawlessness in the form of lynch law is spreading its wings over the whole country.
Men who, like Governor Tillman, start the ball of lynch law rolling for a certain crime, are powerless to stop it when drunken or criminal white toughs feel like hanging an Afro-American on
any pretext.
Even to the better class of Afro-Americans the crime of rape is so revolting they have too often taken the white man’s word and given lynch law neither the investigation nor condemnation
it deserved.
They forget that a concession of the right to lynch a man for a certain crime, not only concedes the right to lynch any person for any crime, but (so frequently is the cry of rape now raised)
it is in a fair way to stamp us a race of rapists and desperadoes. They have gone on hoping and believing that general education and financial strength would solve the difficulty, and are
devoting their energies to the accumulation of both.
— 62 -The mob spirit has grown with the increasing intelligence of the Afro-American. It has left the out-of-the-way places where ignorance prevails, has thrown off the mask and with this new
cry stalks in broad daylight in large cities, the centres of civilization, and is encouraged by the “leading citizens” and the press.
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Chapter V: The South’s Position
Henry W. Grady 5 in his well-remembered speeches in New England and New York pictured the Afro-American as incapable of self-government. Through him and other leading men the
cry of the South to the country has been “Hands off! Leave us to solve our problem.” To the Afro-American the South says, “the white man must and will rule.” There is little difference
between the Ante-bellum South and the New South.
Her white citizens are wedded to any method however revolting, any measure however extreme, for the subjugation of the young manhood of the race. They have cheated him out of his
ballot, deprived him of civil rights or redress therefor in the civil courts, robbed him of the fruits of his labor, and are still murdering, burning and lynching him.
The result is a growing disregard of human life. Lynch law has spread its insiduous influence till men in New York State, Pennsylvania and on the free Western plains feel they can take
the law in their own hands with impunity, especially where an Afro-American is concerned. The South is brutalized to a degree not realized by its own inhabitants, and the very foundation
of government, law and order, are imperilled.
— 67 -Public sentiment has had a slight “reaction” though not sufficient to stop the crusade of lawlessness and lynching. The spirit of christianity of the great M. E. Church was aroused to the
frequent and revolting crimes against a weak people, enough to pass strong condemnatory resolutions at its General Conference in Omaha last May. The spirit of justice of the grand old
party asserted itself sufficiently to secure a denunciation of the wrongs, and a feeble declaration of the belief in human rights in the Republican platform at Minneapolis, June 7th. Some of
the great dailies and weeklies have swung into line declaring that lynch law must go. The President of the United States 6 issued a proclamation that it be not tolerated in the territories
over which he has jurisdiction. Governor Northern and Chief Justice Bleckley of Georgia have proclaimed against it. The citizens of Chattanooga, Tenn., have set a worthy example in that
they not only condemn lynch law, but her public men demanded a trial for Weems, the accused rapist, and guarded him while the trial was in progress. The trial only lasted ten minutes,
and Weems chose to plead guilty and accept twenty-one years sentence, than invite the certain death which awaited him outside that cordon of police if he had told the truth and shown
the letters he had from the white woman in the case.
Col. A. S. Colyar, of Nashville, Tenn., is so overcome with the horrible state of affairs that he addressed the following earnest letter to the Nashville “American.” “Nothing since I have been
a reading man has so impressed me with the decay of manhood among the people of Tennssee as the dastardly submission to the mob reign. We have reached the unprecedented low
level; the awful criminal depravity of substituting the mob for the court and jury, of giving up the jail keys to the mob whenever they are demanded. We do it in the largest cities and in the
country towns; we do it in midday; we do it after full, not to say formal, notice, and so thoroughly and generally is it acquiesced in that the murderers have discarded the formula of masks.
They go into the town where everybody knows them, sometimes under the gaze of the governor, in the presence of the courts, in the presence of the sheriff and his deputies, in the
presence of the entire police force, take out the prisoner, take his life, often with fiendish glee, and often with acts of cruelty and barbarism which impress the reader with a degeneracy
rapidly approaching savage life. That the State is disgraced but faintly expresses the humiliation which has settled upon the once proud people of Tennessee. The State, in its majesty,
through its organized
— 68 —
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life, for which the people pay liberally, makes but one record, but one note, and that a criminal falsehood, ‘was hung by persons to the jury unknown.’ The murder at Shelbyville is only a
verification of what every intelligent man knew would come, because with a mob a rumor is as good as a proof.”
These efforts brought forth apologies and a short halt, but the lynching mania was raged again through the past three months with unabated fury.
The strong arm of the law must be brought to bear upon lynchers in severe punishment, but this cannot and will not be done unless a healthy public sentiment demands and sustains
such action.
The men and women in the South who disapprove of lynching and remain silent on the perpetration of such outrages, are particeps criminis, accomplices, accessories before and after
the fact, equally guilty with the actual law-breakers who would not persist if they did not know that neither the law nor militia would be employed against them.
Chapter VI: Self Help
In the creation of this healthier public sentiment, the Afro-American can do for himself what no one else can do for him, The world looks on with wonder that we have conceded so much
and remain law-abiding under such great outrage and provocation.
To Northern capital and Afro-American labor the South owes its rehabilitation. If labor is withdrawn capital will not remain. The Afro-American is thus the backbone of the South. A
thorough knowledge and judicious exercise of this power in lynching localities could many times effect a bloodless revolution. The white man’s dollar is his god, and to stop this will be to
stop outrages in many localities.
The Afro Americans of Memphis denounced the lynching of three of their best citizens, and urged and waited for the authorities to act in the matter and bring the lynchers to justice. No
attempt was made to do so, and the black men left the city by thousands, bringing about great stagnation in every branch of business. Those who remained so injured the business of the
street car company by staying off the cars, that the superintendent, manager and treasurer called personally on the editor of the “Free Speech,” asked them to urge our people to give
them their patronage again. Other business men became alarmed over the situation and the “Free Speech” was run away that the colored people might be more easily controlled. A
meeting of white citizens in
— 69 -June, three months after the lynching, passed resolutions for the first time, condemning it. But they did not punish the lynchers. Every one of them was known by name, because they had
been selected to do the dirty work, by some of the very citizens who passed these resolutions. Memphis is fast losing her black population, who proclaim as they go that there is no
protection for the life and property of any Afro-American citizen in Memphis who is not a slave.
The Afro-American citizens of Kentucky, whose intellectual and financial improvement has been phenomenal, have never had a separate car law unitl now. Delegations and petitions
poured into the Legislature against it, yet the bill passed and the Jim Crow Car of Kentucky is a legalized institution. Will the great mass of Negroes continue to patronize the railroad? A
special from Covington, Ky., says:
Covington, June 13th. — The railroads of the State are beginning to feel very markedly, the effects of the separate coach bill recently passed by the Legislature. No class of people in the
State have so many and so largely attended excursions as the blacks. All these have been abandoned, and regular travel is reduced to a minimum. A competent authority says the loss to
the various roads will reach $1,000,000 this year.
A call to a State Conference in Lexington, Ky,, last June had delegates from every county in the State. Those delegates, the ministers, teachers, heads of secret and others orders, and
the head of every every family should pas the word around for every member of the race in Kentucky to stay off railroads unless obliged to ride[.] If they did so, and their advice was
followed persistently the convention would not need to petition the Legislature to repeal the law or raise money to file a suit. The railroad corporations would be so effected they would in
self-defense lobby to have the separate car law repealed. On the other hand, as long as the railroads can get Afro-American excursions they will always have plenty of money to fight all
the suits brought against them. They will be aided in so doing by the same partisan public sentiment which passed the law. White men passed the law, and white judges and juries would
pass upon the suits against the law, and render judgment in line with their prejudices and in deference to the greater financial power.
The appeal to the white man’s pocket has ever been more effectual than all the appeals ever made to his conscience. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is to be gained by a further sacrifice of
manhood and self-respect. By the right exercise of his power as the industrial factor of
— 70 -the South, the Afro-American can demand and secure his rights, the punishment of lynchers, and a fair trial for accused rapists.
Of the many inhuman outrages of this present year, the only case where the proposed lynching did not occur, was where the men armed themselves in Jacksonville, Fla., and Paducah,
Ky., and prevented it. The only times an Afro-American who was assaulted got away has been when he had a gun and used it in self-defense.
The lesson this teaches and which every Afro American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that
protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will
have greater respect for Afro-American life. The more the Afro-American yields and cringes and begs, the more he has to do so, the more he is insulted, outraged and lynched.
The assertion has been substantiated throughout these pages that the press contains unreliable and doctored reports of lynchings, and one of the most necessary things for the race to
do is to get these facts before the public. The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.
The Afro-American papers are the only ones which will print the truth, and they lack means to employ agents and detectives to get at the facts. The race must rally a mighty host to the
support of their journals, and thus enable them to do much in the way of investigation.
A lynching occurred at Port Jarvis, N.Y., the first week in June. A white and colored man were implicated in the assault upon a white girl. It was charged that the white man paid the
colored boy to make the assault, which he did on the public highway in broad day time, and was lynched. This, too was done by “parties unknown.” The white man in the case still lives.
He was imprisoned and promises to fight the case on trial. At the preliminary examination, it developed that he had been a suitor of the girl’s. She had repulsed and refused him, yet had
given him money, and he had sent threatening letters demanding more.
The day before this examination she was so wrought up, she left home and wandered miles away. When found she said she did so because she was afraid of the man’s testimony. Why
should she be afraid of the prisoner? Why should she yield to his demands for money if not to prevent him exposing something he knew? It seems explainable only on the hypothesis that
a liason existed between the colored boy and the girl, and the white man knew of it. The press is singularly silent. Has it a motive? We owe it to ourselves to find out.
— 71 -The story comes from Larned, Kansas, Oct. 1st, that a young white lady held at bay until daylight, without alarming any one in the house, “a burly Negro” who entered her room and bed.
The “burly Negro” was promptly lynched without investigation or examination of inconsistant stories.
A house was found burned down near Montgomery, Ala., in Monroe County, Oct. 13th, a few weeks ago; also the burned bodies of the owners and melted piles of gold and silver.
These discoveries led to the conclusion that the awful crime was not prompted by motives of robbery. The suggestion of the whites was that “brutal lust was the incentive, and as there
are nearly 200 Negroes living within a radius of five miles of the place the conclusion was inevitable that some of them were the perpetrators.”
Upon this “suggestion” probably made by the real criminal, the mob acted upon the “conclusion” and arrested ten Afro-Americans, four of whom, they tell the world, confessed to the deed
of murdering Richard L. Johnson and outraging his daughter, Jeanette. These four men, Berrell Jones, Moses Johnson, Jim and John Packer, none of them 25 years of age, upon this
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conclusion, were taken from jail, hanged, shot, and burned while yet alive the night of Oct. 12th. The same report says Mr. Johnson was on the best of terms with his Negro tenants.
The race thus outraged must find out the facts of this awful hurling of men into eternity on supposition, and give them to the indifferent and apathetic country. We feel this to be a garbled
report, but how can we prove it?
Near Vicksburg, Miss., a murder was committed by a gang of burglars. Of course it must have been done by Negroes, and Negroes were arrested for it. It is believed that 2 men, Smith
Tooley and John Adams belonged to a gang controlled by white men and, fearing exposure, on the night of July 4th, they were hanged in the Court House yard by those interested in
silencing them. Robberies since committed in the same vicinity have been known to be by white men who had their faces blackened. We strongly believe in the innocence of these
murdered men, but we have no proof. No other news goes out to the world save that which stamps us as a race of cut-throats, robbers and lustful wild beasts. So great is Southern hate
and prejudice, they legally (?) hung poor little thirteen year old Mildrey Brown at Columbia, S.C., Oct. 7th, on the circumstantial evidence that she poisoned a white infant. If her guilt had
been proven unmistakably, had she been white, Mildrey Brown would never have been hung.
— 72 -The country would have been aroused and South Carolina disgraced forever for such a crime. The Afro American himself did not know as he should have known as his journals should be
in a position to have him know and act.
Nothing is more definitely settled than he must act for himself. I have shown how he may employ the boycott, emigration and the press, and I feel that by a combination of all these
agencies can be effectually stamped out lynch law, that last relic of barbarism and slavery. “The gods help those who help themselves.”
— nts -1 Question marks in parentheses throughout the documents are presumably Wells’s. [return] [All footnotes are the editor’s.]
2 Secret white supremacist societies such as the Ku Klux Klan and the White Liners [return] flourished after 1867.
3 Raids by armed whites, as in these three incidents cited by Wells, were typically [return] directed against groups of African Americans rather than individuals. In the Hamburg case,
several members of the African American militia were arrested on July 4, 1876, for “blocking traffic” in the course of their parade; they had refused to step aside to allow passage of two
buggies driven by whites. In the ensuing riot, several African Americans were killed.
4 This Memphis riot, one of the bloodiest of the Reconstruction era, resulted in the [return] deaths of forty-six African Americans (men, women, and children), the injury of many more, and
the burning of ninety-one houses, twelve schools, and four churches. The riot was touched off when African American soldiers from Fort Pickering freed a prisoner from the custody of the
Memphis police.
5 Henry Grady, nationally renowned journalist and orator, was part owner and editor [return] of the Atlanta Constitution.
6 Benjamin Harrison, a Republican from Ohio. [return]
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