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Lynching of Jesse Washington

Washington hanging from a tree after being severely burned

Jesse Washington, a teenage African-American farmhand, was lynched in Waco, Texas, on May 15, 1916, in what became a well-known example of racially motivated lynching. Washington was accused of raping and murdering Lucy Fryer, the wife of his white employer in rural Robinson, Texas. There were no eyewitnesses to the crime, but during his interrogation by the McLennan County sheriff he signed a confession and described the location of the murder weapon.

Washington was tried for murder in Waco, in a courtroom filled with furious locals. He entered a guilty plea and was quickly sentenced to death. After his sentence was pronounced, he was dragged out of the court by observers and lynched in front of Waco's city hall. Over 10,000 spectators, including city officials and police, gathered to watch the attack. There was a celebratory atmosphere at the event, and many children attended during their lunch hour. Members of the mob castrated Washington, cut off his fingers, and hung him over a bonfire. He was repeatedly lowered and raised over the fire for about two hours. After the fire was extinguished, his charred torso was dragged through the town and parts of his body were sold as souvenirs. A professional photographer took pictures as the event unfolded, providing rare imagery of a lynching in progress. The pictures were printed and sold as postcards in Waco.

Although the lynching was supported by many Waco residents, it was condemned by newspapers around the United States. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hired Elisabeth Freeman to investigate; she conducted a detailed probe in Waco, despite the reluctance of many residents to speak about the event. After receiving Freeman's report on the lynching, NAACP co-founder and editor W. E. B. Du Bois published an in-depth report featuring photographs of Washington's charred body in The Crisis, and the NAACP featured his death in their anti-lynching campaign. Although Waco had been regarded as a modern, progressive city, the lynching demonstrated that it still tolerated racial violence; the event was nicknamed the "Waco horror". The city subsequently gained a reputation for racism, but city leaders prevented violence on several occasions in subsequent decades. Historians have noted that Washington's death helped alter the way that lynching was viewed; the publicity it received curbed public support for the practice, which became viewed as barbarism rather than as an acceptable form of justice. In the 1990s and 2000s, some Waco residents lobbied for a monument to the lynching, an idea that has failed to garner wide support in the city.

Contents

  • Background 1
  • Murder and arrest 2
  • Trial and lynching 3
  • Aftermath 4
  • NAACP investigation and campaign 5
  • Analysis and legacy 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
    • Books 8.1
    • Journals 8.2
    • Newspapers 8.3
    • Websites 8.4
  • Further reading 9

Background

A 1911 depiction of a group of Waco residents, reflecting the city's desire to present itself as an idyllic locale

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a significant number of Mississippi, and Texas. Between 1890 and 1920, about 3,000 African Americans were killed by lynch mobs, usually after whites were the victims of crimes purportedly committed by blacks. Supporters of lynching justified the practice as a way to assert dominance over African Americans, to whom they attributed a criminal nature.[1] Lynching also provided a sense of white solidarity in a culture with changing demographics and power structures.[2] Although lynching was tolerated by much of southern society, opponents of the practice emerged, including some religious leaders and the nascent National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).[1]

In 1916, Waco, Texas, was a prosperous city with a population of more than 30,000. After it became associated with crime in the 19th century, community leaders sought to change its reputation, sending delegations across the U.S. to promote it as an idyllic locale. By the 1910s, Waco's economy had become strong and the city had gained a pious reputation.[3] A black middle class had emerged in the area, along with two black colleges.[4] In the mid-1910s, blacks comprised about twenty percent of the Waco population.[5] In her 2006 study of lynching, journalist Patricia Bernstein describes the city as then having a "thin veneer" of peace and respectability.[6] Racial tension was present in the city: local newspapers often emphasized crimes committed by African Americans, and Sank Majors, a black man, was hanged from a bridge near downtown Waco in 1905.[4] A small number of anti-lynching activists lived in the area, including the president of Waco's Baylor University.[7] In 1916, several factors led to an increase in local racism, including the screening of The Birth of a Nation, a movie that promoted white supremacy and glorified the Ku Klux Klan, and the sale of photographs of a recently lynched black man in Temple, Texas.[4]

Murder and arrest

In


  • Du Bois, W. E. B. (July 1916). "The Waco Horror" (PDF). The Crisis (Archived by the Modernist Journals Project) 12 (Supplement to no. 3): 1–8.  (Archive)
  • Goodwyn, Wade. "Waco Recalls a 90-Year-Old 'Horror'." National Public Radio. May 13, 2006. (Transcript of radio story)

Further reading

  • "The Crisis Vol. 12, No. 3". Digitized Journals.  

Websites

  • Blumenthal, Ralph (May 1, 2005). "Fresh Outrage in Waco at Grisly Lynching of 1916". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2012. 
  • Moreno, Sylvia (April 26, 2006). "In Waco, a Push To Atone for The Region's Lynch-Mob Past".  

Newspapers

  • Francis, Megan Ming (2011). "The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of America". Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 13 (1): 46–71.  
  • Ehrenhaus, Peter; Owen, A. Susan (July–October 2004). "Race Lynching and Christian Evangelicalism: Performances of Faith". Text and Performance Quarterly 24 (3/4): 276–301.  
  • Wood, Amy Louise (2005). "Lynching Photography and the Visual Reproduction of White Supremacy". American Nineteenth Century History 6 (3): 373–99.  

Journals

  • Apel, Dora (2004). Imagery of Lynching: Black Men, White Women, and the Mob.  
  • Armstrong, Julie Buckner (2011). Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching.  
  • Berg, Manfred (2011). Popular Justice: A History of Lynching in America.  
  • Bernstein, Patricia (2006). The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP.  
  • Bernstein, Patricia (2007). "Waco Lynching". In Paul Finkelman. Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-First Century 5.  
  • Carrigan, William D. (2006). The Making of a Lynching Culture: Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas, 1836–1916.  
  • DuRocher, Kristina (2011). Raising Racists: The Socialization of White Children in the Jim Crow South.  
  • Gussow, Adam (2002). Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition.  
  • Hale, Grace Elizabeth (1998). Making Whiteness: the Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890–1940.  
  • Nevels, Cynthia Skove (2007). Lynching to Belong: Claiming Whiteness Through Racial Violence. Texas A&M University Press.  
  • Rice, Anne P. (2003). Witnessing Lynching: American Writers Respond. Rutgers University Press.  
  • SoRelle, James M. (2007). "The "Waco Horror": The Lynching of Jesse Washington". In Bruce A. Glasrud and James Smallwood. The African American Experience in Texas: An Anthology.  
  • Waldrep, Christopher (2009). African Americans Confront Lynching: Strategies of Resistance from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Era.  
  • Wood, Amy Louise (2009). Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890–1940.  
  • Zangrando, Robert L. (1980). The NAACP Crusade Against Lynching, 1909–1950.  

Books

Bibliography

  1. ^ a b SoRelle 2007, pp. 183–4.
  2. ^ Carrigan 2006, p. 179.
  3. ^ Bernstein 2006, pp. 11–3.
  4. ^ a b c Wood 2009, pp. 179–80.
  5. ^ Carrigan 2006, p. 171–2.
  6. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 21.
  7. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 80.
  8. ^ SoRelle 2007, p. 185.
  9. ^ Bernstein 2006, pp. 88–9.
  10. ^ a b c SoRelle 2007, pp. 185–6.
  11. ^ a b c Bernstein 2006, p. 90.
  12. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 92.
  13. ^ SoRelle 2007, pp. 186–7; Berg 2011, p. 102.
  14. ^ a b c SoRelle 2007, pp. 186–7.
  15. ^ Hale 1998, p. 215.
  16. ^ Bernstein 2006, pp. 93–4.
  17. ^ Bernstein 2006, pp. 101–2.
  18. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 101.
  19. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 100.
  20. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 102.
  21. ^ SoRelle 2007, p. 188; Waldrep 2009, pp. 66–7.
  22. ^ a b c SoRelle 2007, pp. 188–9.
  23. ^ Bernstein 2007, p. 63.
  24. ^ a b c d e f SoRelle 2007, pp. 189–91.
  25. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 106.
  26. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 108.
  27. ^ SoRelle 2007, pp. 189–91; Carrigan 2006, p. 1.
  28. ^ Berg 2011, p. 103.
  29. ^ Carrigan 2006, p. 2.
  30. ^ DuRocher 2011, p. 124.
  31. ^ SoRelle 2007, pp. 189–91; Waldrep 2009, p. 67.
  32. ^ Berg 2011, p. 103–4.
  33. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 85.
  34. ^ a b c Wood 2009, p. 181.
  35. ^ DuRocher 2011, p. 113.
  36. ^ a b Hale 1998, p. 216.
  37. ^ Wood 2009, p. 66.
  38. ^ Hale 1998, p. 217.
  39. ^ Hale 1998, p. 217; Bernstein 2006, p. 111.
  40. ^ SoRelle 2007, pp. 189–91; DuRocher 2011, p. 104.
  41. ^ DuRocher 2011, pp. 114 & 119.
  42. ^ a b Carrigan 2006, p. 187.
  43. ^ Wood 2009, p. 179.
  44. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 3.
  45. ^ Wood 2005, p. 395.
  46. ^ DuRocher 2011, pp. 109–10.
  47. ^ a b c Berg 2011, p. 104.
  48. ^ a b c Apel 2004, pp. 31–2.
  49. ^ a b Wood 2009, p. 180.
  50. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 130.
  51. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 131.
  52. ^ Hale 1998, p. 220.
  53. ^ Carrigan 2006, p. 190.
  54. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 11; SoRelle 2007, pp. 191–3.
  55. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 127.
  56. ^ a b Bernstein 2006, pp. 142–4.
  57. ^ a b Carrigan 2006, p. 189.
  58. ^ Wood 2009, p. 181; SoRelle 2007, p. 195; Bernstein 2006, p. 181.
  59. ^ Bernstein 2006, pp. 124–6.
  60. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 146.
  61. ^ Hale 1998, p. 363; Carrigan 2006, p. 193.
  62. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 200.
  63. ^ SoRelle 2007, pp. 192–3.
  64. ^ a b c Bernstein 2006, p. 165.
  65. ^ Waldrep 2009, p. 68; Bernstein 2006, pp. 62–3.
  66. ^ Waldrep 2009, p. 68; Bernstein 2006, pp. 76–7.
  67. ^ Waldrep 2009, p. 68; Wood 2009, pp. 180–2.
  68. ^ a b Bernstein 2006, pp. 140–1.
  69. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 144.
  70. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 155.
  71. ^ Rice 2003, p. 7.
  72. ^ Hale 1998, p. 216; Blumenthal 2005.
  73. ^ Carrigan 2006, p. 191.
  74. ^ Wood 2009, pp. 180–2.
  75. ^ Modernist Journals Project.
  76. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 129.
  77. ^ a b Bernstein 2006, p. 60.
  78. ^ a b Francis 2011, p. 58–60.
  79. ^ Rice 2003, p. 8.
  80. ^ a b Bernstein 2006, pp. 159–61.
  81. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 162.
  82. ^ Bernstein 2006, pp. 130 & 135.
  83. ^ SoRelle 2007, pp. 197–8.
  84. ^ Zangrando 1980, p. 30.
  85. ^ SoRelle 2007, pp. 197–8; Bernstein 2006, p. 169.
  86. ^ Armstrong 2011, p. 114.
  87. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 174.
  88. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 173.
  89. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 182.
  90. ^ Carrigan 2006, p. 196.
  91. ^ Bernstein 2006, pp. 178–9.
  92. ^ a b Carrigan 2006, p. 14.
  93. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 191.
  94. ^ Berg 2011, p. 102.
  95. ^ Armstrong 2011, p. 60.
  96. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 96.
  97. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 5.
  98. ^ Nevels 2007, pp. 9–10.
  99. ^ Hale 1998, p. 221.
  100. ^ Ehrenhaus & Owen 2004, p. 286.
  101. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 119.
  102. ^ a b Wood 2009, pp. 181–3.
  103. ^ Carrigan 2006, p. 185.
  104. ^ Carrigan 2006, p. 1.
  105. ^ Carrigan 2006, p. 192.
  106. ^ Carrigan 2006, p. 198.
  107. ^ Carrigan 2006, p. 206.
  108. ^ Gussow 2002, pp. 62–4.
  109. ^ Carrigan 2006, pp. 194–5.
  110. ^ Bernstein 2006, pp. 3–5 & 200.
  111. ^ Bernstein 2006, pp. 199–200.
  112. ^ Moreno 2006; Bernstein 2006, pp. 3–5 & 200.
  113. ^ Moreno 2006; Blumenthal 2005.

References

In the 1990s, Lawrence Johnson, a member of Waco's city council, viewed pictures of the Washington lynching at the National Civil Rights Museum, and began to lobby for a monument to the lynching.[110] In 2002, Lester Gibson, another member of the city council, proposed that a plaque be installed at the courthouse where Washington was lynched. He further stated that the plaque should carry an apology from the city.[111] The ideas were discussed, but proved unfruitful. In the 2000s, the idea of a memorial was revived by a McLennan County commissioner and the Waco Chamber of Commerce; the Waco Herald Tribune has editorialized in support of a historical marker on the site of the lynching.[112] Some descendants of Fryer objected to the proposed memorial.[113]

Blues musician Sammy Price recorded a version of "Hesitation Blues" that referenced Washington's lynching. Price lived in Waco as a child, possibly at the time of Washington's death.[108] Waco-based novelist Madison Cooper featured a lynching, thought to be based on Washington's death, as a key event in his 1952 novel Sironia, Texas.[109]

After the practice of lynching was suppressed in central Texas, it received little attention from local historians.[92] However, Waco developed a reputation for racism—propagated in part by American history textbooks—to the vexation of the city's white residents.[105] In the years following the lynching, African Americans often held Waco in disdain, and some viewed the 1953 Waco tornado outbreak as divine retribution.[106] White leaders of Waco took a non-violent approach in response to demonstrations during the Civil Rights Movement, possibly owing to a desire to avoid stigmatizing the city again.[107]

Amy Louise Wood of Illinois State University writes that the event was "a defining moment in the history of lynching", arguing that with Washington's death, "lynching began to sow the seeds of its own collapse".[102] Although the spectacle of violent mob attacks had previously benefited white supremacists, Wood contends that after Washington's death was publicized, the anti-lynching movement included images of racially motivated brutality in their campaigns.[102] Carrigan notes that Washington's death may have received more public attention than any other lynching in the United States, and sees the event as a "turning point in the history of mob violence in Central Texas".[103] Although the outcry it provoked did not end the practice, it helped bring an end to public support of such attacks by city leaders.[57] Carrigan states that the lynching was "the most infamous day in the history of central Texas" until the Waco siege of 1993.[104]

In their 2004 study of lynching, Peter Ehrenhaus and A. Susan Owen compare the lynching to a blood sacrifice, arguing Waco residents felt a sense of collective righteousness after Washington's death, as they saw him as the presence of evil in the community.[100] Bernstein compares the public brutality of the lynch mob to the medieval English practice of hanging, drawing, and quartering people convicted of high treason.[101]

Bernstein states that Washington's lynching was a unique event because it occurred in a city with a reputation for progressiveness, but was attended by thousands of people who were excited by the brutal torture. Similar acts of mob violence typically occurred in smaller towns with fewer spectators.[97] William Carrigan of Rowan University argues that the culture of central Texas had glorified retributive mob violence for decades before Washington's lynching, maintaining that this culture of violence explains how such a brutal attack could be publicly celebrated.[98] Hale posits that Washington's death signaled a transition in the practice of lynching, demonstrating its acceptance in modernized, 20th-century cities.[36] She notes that Washington's lynching illustrates how technological innovations, such as telephones and inexpensive photographs, could empower lynch mobs but also increase society's condemnation of their actions.[99]

In 2011, Berg concluded that Washington probably murdered Fryer, but doubted that he raped her.[94] The same year, Julie Armstrong of the University of South Florida argued that Washington was probably innocent of both charges.[95] Bernstein notes that Washington's motives have never been established. She also states that his confession could have been coerced, and that the murder weapon—perhaps the strongest evidence against him—could have been planted by authorities.[96]

Analysis and legacy

The number of lynchings in the U.S. increased in the late 1910s.[88] Additional lynchings occurred in Waco in the 1920s, partially owing to the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.[89] By the late 1920s, however, Waco authorities had begun to protect blacks from lynching, as in the case of Roy Mitchell.[90] Authorities feared that negative publicity generated by lynchings—such as the NAACP's campaign following Washington's death—would hinder their efforts to attract investors.[91] The NAACP fought to portray lynching as a savage, barbaric practice, an idea which eventually gained traction in the public mind.[92] Bernstein credits the group's efforts with helping to end "the worst public atrocities of the racist system" in the Waco region.[93]

The NAACP had struggled financially around that time.[77] Their anti-lynching campaign saw some success in raising funds, but it was scaled back as the U.S. entered World War I.[85] NAACP president Joel Elias Spingarn later stated that the group's campaign placed "lynching into the public mind as something like a national problem".[86] In her 2006 study of lynching, Bernstein describes this anti-lynching campaign as the "barest beginnings of a battle that would last many years".[87]

Other black newspapers also carried significant coverage of the lynching, as did liberal papers such as The New Republic and The Nation.[82] Freeman traveled around the U.S. to speak to audiences about her investigation, maintaining that a shift in public opinion could accomplish more than legislative actions.[64] Although there were other lynchings as brutal as Washington's, the availability of images and the setting of his death made it a cause célèbre.[83] Leaders of the NAACP hoped to launch a legal battle against those responsible for Washington's death, but abandoned the plan owing to the projected cost.[84]

[81] wrote in a later edition of the paper that "the crime at Waco is a challenge to our American civilization".Oswald Garrison Villard. The Crisis Washington's death received continued discussion in [78] included more images of lynchings in subsequent issues.The Crisis [48] The NAACP distributed the report to hundreds of newspapers and politicians, a campaign that led to wide condemnation of the lynching. Many white observers were disturbed by the southerners who celebrated the lynching.[80] The article concluded with a call to support the anti-lynching movement.[80]

Fleming and the judge who presided over the trial each spoke with her; both argued that they did not deserve blame for the lynching.[70] A schoolteacher who had known Washington told Freeman that Washington was illiterate, and that all attempts to teach him to read had been futile.[11] Freeman concluded that white residents were generally supportive of Washington's lynching, although many disliked that his body was mutilated.[71] She determined that the mob was led by a bricklayer, a saloonkeeper, and several employees of an ice company. The NAACP did not publicly identify them.[72] Freeman concluded that Washington killed Fryer, and that he was motivated by her domineering attitude towards him.[48]

[69] Local African Americans, however, gave her a warm reception.[68] Some journalists soon grew suspicious of her presence and warned residents not to talk to outsiders.[68] Although she feared for her safety, she enjoyed the challenge of the investigation. When speaking with city leaders, Freeman convinced them that she planned to defend Waco against criticism when she returned to the north.[67] She spoke with town officials and obtained pictures of the lynching from Gildersleeve, who was initially reluctant to provide them.[66] The NAACP hired

NAACP investigation and campaign

Although leaders of Waco's black community gave public condolences to the Fryer family, they complained about Washington's lynching only in private. One exception was the Paul Quinn Weekly newspaper, of Texas' [64]

Some Waco residents condemned the lynching, including local ministers and leaders of Baylor University.[34] The judge who presided over Washington's trial later stated that members of the lynch mob were "murderers"; the jury's foreman told the NAACP that he disapproved of their actions.[58] Some people who witnessed the lynching recorded persistent nightmares and psychological trauma.[59] A few citizens contemplated staging a protest against the lynching, but declined to do so owing to concerns about reprisals or the appearance of hypocrisy.[60] After the lynching, town officials maintained that it was attended by a small group of malcontents.[47] Although their claim is contradicted by photographic evidence, several histories of Waco have repeated this assertion.[61] There were no negative repercussions for Dollins or Police Chief John McNamara: although they made no attempt to stop the mob, they remained well respected in Waco.[62] As was common with such attacks, no one was prosecuted for the lynching.[42]

In the days after the lynching, newspapers fiercely condemned the event.[49] Within a week, news of the lynching was published as far away as London.[50] A New York Times editorial opined that, "in no other land even pretending to be civilized could a man be burned to death in the streets of a considerable city amid the savage exultation of its inhabitants".[49] In the New York Age, James Weldon Johnson described the members of the lynch mob as "lower than any other people who at present inhabit the earth".[51] Although many southern newspapers had previously defended lynching as a defense of civilized society, after Washington's death, they did not cast the practice in such terms.[52] The Montgomery Advertiser wrote that, "no savage was ever more cruel ... than the men who participated in this horrible, almost unbelievable episode".[53] In Texas, the Houston Chronicle and the Austin American criticized the lynch mob, but spoke highly of Waco.[54] The Morning News of Dallas reported the story, but did not publish an accompanying editorial.[55] In Waco, the Times-Herald refrained from editorializing about the lynching. The Waco Morning News briefly noted their disapproval of the lynching, focusing their criticism on papers they felt had attacked the city unfairly. They cast the condemnatory editorials in the aftermath of the lynching as "Holier than thou" remarks.[56] A writer for the Waco Semi-Weekly Tribune defended the lynching, stating that Washington deserved to die and that blacks should view Washington's death as a warning against crime.[57] The paper later carried an editorial from the Houston Post condemning the lynching, characterizing the column as part of an attack on the city.[56]

Fred Gildersleeve, a Waco-based professional photographer, arrived at city hall shortly before the lynching, possibly at the mayor's request, and photographed the event.[43] His photographs provide rare depictions of a lynching in progress, rather than typical lynching photography, which only shows dead victims.[44] Gildersleeve's photographs include views of the crowd shot from a building and close images of Washington's body; some may have been taken by an assistant.[45] Gildersleeve produced postcards featuring images of adolescents, some as young as twelve, gathered around Washington's body.[46] The individuals in the photographs made no attempts to hide their identities.[47] Berg believes that their willingness to be photographed indicates that they knew that no one would be prosecuted for Washington's death.[47] Although some Waco residents sent the cards to out-of-town relatives, several prominent local citizens persuaded Gildersleeve to stop selling them, fearing that the images would come to characterize the town.[48]

Aftermath

The lynching drew a large crowd, including the mayor and the chief of police, although lynching was illegal in Texas.[31] Sheriff Fleming told his deputies not to stop the lynching, and no one was arrested after the event.[32] Bernstein speculates that his actions were motivated by a desire to harshly deal with crime to help his candidacy for re-election that year.[33] Mayor John Dollins may have also encouraged the mob owing to the belief that a lynching would be politically beneficial.[34] The crowd numbered 15,000 at its peak.[35] Telephones helped spread word of the lynching, allowing spectators to gather more quickly than was previously possible.[36] Local media reported that "shouts of delight" were heard as Washington burned, although they noted that some attendees disapproved.[37] The Waco Semi-Weekly Tribune maintained that a number of black Waco residents attended, a claim that historian Grace Hale of the University of Virginia sees as dubious.[38] Waco residents, who likely had no connection with the rural Fryer family, comprised most of the crowd.[34] Some people from nearby rural communities traveled to the city before the trial to witness the events.[39] As the lynching occurred at midday, children from local schools walked downtown to observe, some climbing into trees for a better view.[40] Many parents approved of their children's attendance, hoping that the lynching would reinforce a belief in white supremacy.[41] Some Texans saw participation in a lynching as a rite of passage for young men.[42]

After four minutes of deliberation, the jury's foreman announced a guilty verdict and a sentence of death.[24] The trial lasted about one hour.[25] Court officers approached Washington to escort him away, but were pushed aside by a surge of spectators, who seized Washington and dragged him outside.[24] Washington initially fought back, biting one man, but was soon beaten.[26] A chain was placed around his neck and he was dragged toward city hall by a growing mob; on the way downtown, he was stripped, stabbed, and repeatedly beaten with blunt objects. By the time he arrived at city hall, a group had prepared wood for a bonfire next to a tree in front of the building.[24] Washington, semiconscious and covered in blood, was doused with oil, hung from the tree by a chain, and then lowered to the ground.[27] Members of the crowd cut off his fingers, toes, and genitals.[24] The fire was lit and Washington was repeatedly raised and lowered into the flames until he burned to death. German scholar Manfred Berg posits that the executioners attempted to keep him alive to increase his suffering.[28] Washington attempted to climb the chain, but was unable to, owing to his lack of fingers.[29] The fire was extinguished after two hours, allowing bystanders to collect souvenirs from the site of the lynching, including Washington's bones and links of the chain.[24] One attendee kept part of Washington's genitalia;[30] a group of children snapped the teeth out of Washington's head to sell as souvenirs. By the time that the fire was extinguished, parts of Washington's arms and legs had been burned off and his torso and head were charred. His body was removed from the tree and dragged behind a horse throughout the town. Washington's remains were transported to Robinson, where they were publicly displayed until a constable obtained the body late in the day and buried it.[24]

On the morning of May 15, Waco's courthouse quickly filled to capacity in anticipation of the trial: the crowd nearly prevented some jurors from entering. Observers also filled the sidewalks around the courthouse; over two thousand spectators were present.[21] Attendees were almost entirely white, but a few quiet members of Waco's black community were present. As Washington was led into the courtroom, one audience member pointed a gun at him, but was quickly overpowered.[22] As the trial commenced, the judge attempted to keep order, insisting that the audience remain silent. Jury selection proceeded quickly: the defense did not challenge any selections of the prosecution.[22] Bernstein states that the trial had a "kangaroo-court atmosphere".[23] The judge asked Washington for a plea, and explained the potential sentences. Washington muttered a response, possibly "Yes", interpreted by the court as a guilty plea. The prosecution described the charges, and the court heard testimony from law enforcement officers and the doctor who examined Fryer's body. The doctor discussed how Fryer died, but did not mention rape. The prosecution rested, and Washington's attorney asked him whether he had committed the offense. Washington replied, "That's what I done [sic]" and quietly apologized. The lead prosecutor addressed the courtroom and declared that the trial had been conducted fairly, prompting an ovation from the crowd. The jury was then sent to deliberate.[22]

Charred corpse of Jesse Washington among the ashes
Washington's body hanging
The crowd preparing to lynch Washington

Trial and lynching

On May 11, a grand jury was assembled in McLennan County and quickly returned an indictment against Washington; the trial was scheduled for May 15.[14] The Times-Herald of Waco published a notice on May 12 requesting that residents let the justice system determine Washington's fate.[17] Fleming traveled to Robinson on May 13 to ask residents to remain calm; his address was well received.[18] Washington was assigned several inexperienced lawyers.[19] His lawyers prepared no defense, and noted that he appeared placid in the days before the trial.[20]

On May 9, Fleming took Washington to Hill County to prevent vigilante action. The Hill County Sheriff, Fred Long, questioned Washington with Fleming; Washington told them he had killed Fryer following an argument about her mules, and described the murder weapon and its location.[13] Long brought Washington to Dallas, Texas, while Fleming returned to Robinson. Fleming soon reported that he found a bloody hammer where Washington had indicated. In Dallas, Washington dictated and signed a statement that described the rape and murder of Fryer; the confession was published the next day in Waco newspapers.[14] Newspapers sensationalized the murder, describing Fryer's attempts to resist Washington's attack, although the doctor who had examined her body concluded that she was killed before she could resist.[15] A lynch mob assembled in Waco that night to search the local jail, but dispersed after they did not find Washington.[14] Nevertheless, a local paper praised their effort. That night, a small private funeral and burial were held for Lucy Fryer.[16]

[11] Rumors spread after his arrest that he had been in an altercation with a white man a few days before the murder.[10] Jesse, his brother William, and their parents were taken to nearby Waco to be questioned by the sheriff's department; although Jesse's parents and brother were released after a short time, he was held for further interrogation. His questioners in Waco reported that he denied complicity in Fryer's death, but offered contradictory details about his actions.[12] He attributed the stains to a nosebleed.[10] That night, sheriff's deputies traveled to Washington's home, finding him in front of the house wearing blood-stained overalls.[11] one of them stated that he had seen Washington near the Fryer house a few minutes before Lucy's body was discovered.[10] Sheriff, Samuel Fleming, who immediately investigated with a team of law-enforcement officers, a group of local men, and a doctor. The doctor determined that Fryer had been killed by blunt-force trauma to the head. The local men suspected that Jesse Washington, a seventeen-year-old black man who had worked on the Fryers' farm for five months, was responsible;McLennan County News of the death quickly reached the [9]

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