Document 7: "The Anti-Lynching Crusaders: The Lynching of Women," , NAACP Papers, Part 7: The Anti-Lynching Campaign, 1912-1955, Series B: Anti-Lynching Legislative and Publicity Files, 1916-1955, Library of Congress (Microfilm, Reel 3, Frames 570-73).
In this and the following four documents, the organizers of the Anti-Lynching Crusaders articulated their objectives and imagined the form their organization would take. The horror of lynching and the prevalence of this crime had moved these women to action. While undated, this document and documents 8 and 9 were likely written in June or July of 1922 as the Crusaders took shape.
In this document the Crusaders spelled out their position on lynching and sought to dispel prevalent myths about lynch victims. Typically lynch victims were black men, but in this document, like several others reproduced in this project, the Crusaders emphasized the incidence of lynchings where women -- black and white -- were the victims. They asked: "how many people realize that since 1889 eighty-three women are known to have been lynched?" and included graphic descriptions of selected lynchings alongside statistics revealing the numbers of black and white women who had been lynched. The authors also sought to undermine the belief that lynching was typically a punishment doled out to rapists or attempted rapists. In only 16.6 per cent of lynchings, they argued, were lynch victims accused of rape. Moreover, the narratives they provided pointed to the prevalence of white men's sexual abuse of African-American women and its connection to mob violence against blacks.
The Anti-Lynching Crusaders
The Lynching of Women.
The Anti-Lynching Crusaders are a band of women organized to stop lynching. Their slogan is: "A Million Women United to Stop Lynching." They are trying to raise at least one dollar from every woman united with them and to finish this work on or before January 1st 1923. The reason that they believe this work to be of pressing importance is because of the facts as to lynching which confront every American. First of all, how many people realize that since 1889 eighty-three women are known to have been lynched? The record is as follows:
State Colored White Total 1. Mississippi 14 1 15 2. Texas 8 2 10 3. Alabama 9 - 9 4. Georgia 8 - 8 5. Arkansas 6 1 7 6. South Carolina 6 - 6 7. Louisiana 4 1 5 8. Tennessee 3 2 5 9. Kentucky 2 2 4 10. Oklahoma 2 2 4 11. Florida 3 - 3 12. Missouri 1 1 2 13. North Carolina - 1 1 14. Virginia - 1 1 15. Nebraska - 1 1 16. W. Virginia - 1 1 17. Wyoming - 1 1 83
Let us consider a few facts.
In May, 1918, a white plantation owner in Brooks County, Georgia, got into a quarrel with one of his colored tenants and the tenant killed him. A mob sought to avenge his death but could not find the suspected man. They therefore lynched another colored man named Hayes Turner. His wife, Mary Turner, threatened to have members of the mob arrested. The mob therefore started after her. She fled from home and was found there the next morning. She was in the eighth month of pregnancy but the mob of several hundred took her to a small stream, tied her ankles together and hung her on a tree head downwards. Gasoline was thrown on her clothes and she was set on fire. One of the members of the mob took a knife and split her abdomen open so that the unborn child fell from her womb to the ground and the child's head was crushed under the heel of another member of the mob; Mary Turner's body was finally riddled with bullets.
On Greenwood Avenue in the colored section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, two aged colored people, and man and his wife, lived. On the night of the Tulsa riot, May 31, 1921, a mob broke into the home and shot both the woman and her husband from behind. The home was then set on fire.
The New York Tribune says, February 8, 1904:
"Luther Holbert, a Doddsville (Mississippi) Negro and his wife were burned at the stake for the murder of James Eastland, a white planter, and John Carr, a Negro. The planter was killed in a quarrel which arose when he came to Carr's cabin, where he found Holbert, and ordered him to leave the plantation. Carr and a Negro, named Winters, were also killed.
"Holbert and his wife fled the plantation but were brought back and burned at the stake in the presence of a thousand people . . . . . There is nothing . . . . . to indicate that Holbert's wife had any part in the crime."
An Associated Press dispatch in 1911 reads as follows:
"At Okemah, Oklahoma, Laura Nelson, a colored woman accused of murdering a deputy sheriff who had discovered stolen goods at her house, was lynched together with her son, a boy about fifteen. The woman and her son were taken from the jail, dragged about six miles to the Canadian River and hanged from a bridge, The woman was raped by members of the mob before she was hanged."
An Associated Press dispatch in 1914 reads as follows:
"Marie Scott of Wagner County, a seventeen year old Negro girl, was lynched by a mob of white men because her brother killed one of the two white men who had assaulted her . . . . . The mob came to kill her brother but as he had escaped, lynched the girl instead."
In 1918 Dr. E. L. Johnston, a white plantation owner, was killed and a colored boy was suspected of the deed. He was suspected because two colored girls, sisters, were working for Dr. Johnston and both were pregnant by the doctor. The boy was engaged to be married to the older. A mob took the two girls, the boy and the boy's fifteen-year old brother to a bridge and hanged them.
It is asserted that none of these four knew anything about the killing; that Dr. Johnston had been killed by a white man for seducing a white woman.
THE CAUSES OF LYNCHING
Most people assume that rape or attempted rape is practically the sole cause of lynching. This is not true. From 1889 up until July 1, 1922, there have been 3,465 known lynchings in the United States. In only 581 of these cases, or 16.6 percent, were there even an accusation of rape.
In the five year period from 1914 through 1918, 264 Negroes were lynched in the United States, not counting those killed in the East St. Louis riots. Of the 264 cases rape was the alleged cause in only 28 cases. On the other hand, in the single year of 1917 in New York County, one of the five counties forming the city of greater New York, 230 persons were indicted for rape, of whom 37 were indicted for rape in the first degree. Thus it may be seen that in one county alone, 9 more persons were indicted before courts for rape in the first degree than there were lynchings of Negroes for rape in the whole country during five years. And in the case of the Negroes there was only accusation and no proof. Among the 37 persons mentioned above there was not a single Negro.
From 1889 through July 1, 1922, the following causes of lynching has been alleged by the mob leaders in the news dispatched:
Murder 1291 Rape 581 Crimes against the person other than rape (i.e. "striking white man," "talking back to a white man," "refusing to turn out of road to let white boy pass," etc.) 868 Crimes against property 343 Miscellaneous and petty offenses 454 Other crimes 254 No offense 183
In this connection two facts must be remembered. These alleged causes are telegraphed from the place where the lynchings take place and often the news gatherer is in sympathy with the mob. Secondly, if a mob is determined to lynch a man it will more surely gain public sympathy if rape is alleged rather than any other cause. It is fair to assume that in the above list the number of actual cases of rape had been greatly exaggerated.
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