Eighty years ago, on Aug. 7, 1930, Lawrence Beitler took what would become the most iconic photograph of lynching in America. Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith were lynched in the town center of Marion, Ind., for allegedly murdering a white factory worker, Claude Deeter, and raping his companion, Mary Ball. But the case was never solved.
Seventy-five years ago, a 17-year-old was lynched in Union County. If L.Q. Ivy had lived, today he would be 94 years old - the same age as his sister-in-law, Mattie Ivy Bruce, who clearly remembers his murder.
I am the great-great granddaughter of Anthony and Tebby Crawford, the great granddaughter of George and Annabelle Crawford, the granddaughter of Joseph and Fannie Crawford Brooks, and the daughter of Dr. Charles and Helen Brooks Johnson. My story is about my great-great grandfathers lynching in 1916 in Abbeville, SC.
The Trial of Sherriff Joseph Shipp for the lynching of Ed Johnson
Only once in its history has the United States Supreme Court conducted a criminal trial. The trial, taking place in both Tennessee and the District of Columbia in 1907 and 1908, resulted in the conviction of a sheriff, a deputy sheriff, and four members of a Chattanooga lynch mob. Outraged justices ordered the trial on criminal contempt charges after an almost certainly innocent black man, having been convicted of raping a white woman, was lynched less than a day after word reached Chattanooga that his scheduled execution had been stayed by the U. S. Supreme Court.
Of the 492 lynchings that occurred in Texas between 1882 and 1930, the incident that perhaps received the greatest notoriety, both statewide and nationally, was the mutilation and burning of an illiterate seventeen-year-old black farmhand named Jesse Washington by a white mob in Waco, Texas, on May 15, 1916-an event sometimes dubbed the "Waco Horror."
As an angry mob dragged him from the hospital, Zachariah Walker is said to have cried, "For God's sake, give a man a chance! I killed Rice in self-defense. Don't give me no crooked death because I'm not white!" His pleas, however, fell on deaf ears. In a field just outside the borough of Coatesville, Walker was thrown into a hastily constructed fire. Three times he attempted to crawl out, only to be pushed back in until he moved no more.
There had been a lynching in Pickens County. A 24-year-old black man named Willie Earle had been seized from the county jail by a mob, carried across the Greenville County line and beaten, stabbed, and blasted twice at close range with a shotgun.
It was a hotter than usual 4th of July on the streets of Jacksonville in the year 1892. In fact, the city was dangerously close to igniting into a racial inferno. The soupy summer air was ripe for lynching and if not for the organized resistance of the black population and the quick action of Sheriff Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, Jacksonville might easily have descended into an explosion of blood-red 4th of July fireworks.
The first lynching since 1912, the murder of Willie Earle became big news. The trial was biggest lynching trial the state had ever seen. Most lynchings had never even been investigated, while this one had then-Governor Strom Thurmond threatening to put the perpetrators away (yes, you read that right). Time magazine sent reporters, and The New Yorker sent no less than Dame Rebecca West to cover the event.