Microfilm Reel 285, File 543, "Lynching"

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All the microfilm scans from the file number 543, "Lynching," on reel 285 from the Executive Office files of the Woodrow Wilson Papers, series 4 in the Library of Congress finding aid.

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cause him a great deal of embarrassment, and probably death. If I might, I would suggest that the men whose names are given above be required to prove an alibi for the night of Friday, May 17th. It is my information that S. E. McGowan has publicly boasted of his part in the lynching, and he is reputed to have made the following remark, "If the Germans were as thick as the grass in the courthouse yard the same thing would be done again."

A spirit of unrest exists in both Brooks and Lowndes Counties which will undoubtedly affect the labor situation in that community. It is my information that over five hundred negroes have left the community since the lynching. Many more, because of property which they own and crops which they have now in process of cultivation, are unable to do so at the present time, but are planning to leave as soon as they can dispose of their land and gather their crops. At this time when the production of food means so much towards the success of the Government in the War, such a condition is serious.

The above facts were all verified from a number of sources.

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THELYNCHINC MENACE Representative Law, of Burke county, has introduced in the house of representatives a bill intended to put an end to mob law in Georgis

it provides that any sheriff

who negligently, wilfully or by want of Droper diligence, firmness and Promptness, allows a prisoner to be taken from his jail or his custody and put to deatl by vioience, shall not only be guilty of a misdemeanor, but shall forfeit his

office and become ineligible to hold and office in the state.

That sort of a law would stop lynching in

Georgh Nor is there anything about 1i that is

unduly drastle or to which any reasonable

eltizen—sheriff or what not—can justly take exception.

It is as much a sheriffs duty to protect the lives and the rights of prisoners in his

charge as to protect the lives and the right

of free oitizens. It is as much his duty to

enforce the law against mob murder as it is

to enforce the law against murder by an ✓ dividual

Whenever a prisoner-etther before or after conviction, it matters not is taken from the authority of the law and the courts

and lynched the occurrence in itself convicts

the sheriff, in whose keeping the victim ha been, of fallure, either because of incompe-

tence or of malfeasance, to perform the du ties which the people elected him to per

form

Therefore, such a sheriff has no further

claim upon the public's confidence and trust; and, having forfeited those things, he should not be permitted to retain his office. Fur thermore, having proven himself derelict to

duty in one office, he should not be permitted

to enjoy another

Plainly, it is going to require some such

law as that to put an end to the mob evil in Georgia; and it is equally plain that the

time is not far distant when, If the stat itself does not take a firm, determined and effective stand against lynching, the nationa

government itself will assume jurisdiction

and invoke federal measures that wil stop iil

As pointed out by Rev. Rembert O. Smith

one of the states foremost Methodist minis

ters, in a communication in another colums of this page, a note of warning to this effec

already has been sounded in Washington

II has been made plain that the bane of

tynching in this country no longer is local, but that it is impairing our strength as a world power—all of which is presented force

fully by Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith urges the state legislature to

take such action as is necessary to forestall the otherwise inevitable intervention of the

federal government

The Law bill affords an excellent vehicle

for such action.

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Constilution

July 25. 1918

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July 25, 1916.

Hon. Woodrow Wilson, President, Washington, D. C.

Sir:

The press of July 23 carries special dispatches to the effect that you have under consideration the issuance of a statement concerning mob violence. We trust that you will feel disposed to make this statement and that it will include an unequivocal condemnation of the lynching of Negroes. We are not in the slightest doubt as to your attitude toward lynching, but there are in our Judgment special reasons why the President of the United States at this time should speak in the name of the nation in condemnation of the lynching of Negroes.

We respectfully submit the following reasons as justification for our earnest appeal to you to include the lynching of Negroes in a prominent place in any statement you feel disposed to make. In a separate memorandum we are outlining more at length the reasons summarized below:

1. The extraordinary number of lynchings which have occurred since the entry of the United States into the war. (259 Negro victims of mob violence.)

3.The large number of states in which mob outrages against Negroes have occurred since April 6, 1917. (3 Northern and 14 Southern States.)

3. The particularly vicious character of some of these lynchings. In one state three men have been burned and tortured before death and the bodies of two others burned after death. in another state six members of a family were killed at one time; in another, thirteen were lynched from May 17 to May 24, 1918.

We are enclosing for your examination a copy of the report of a special investigator who, on July 10, presented to Governor Hugh M. Dorsey of Georgia the results of his investigation, showing that ten and probably eleven persons (one person had disappeared who is believed to have been lynched) have been lynched as the result of a single episode, instead of six persons as was reported by the press. One of these

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Hon. Woodrow Wilson - 2.

was a woman eight months pregnant who was said by the investigator to have been lynched hanging by the heels, disemboweled, and in the process giving birth to an eight months old child which was crushed under the heel of one of the lynchers.

4. The failure to punish lynchers in any one of the total number of cases in which Negroes were concerned. In only one case known to us have any indictments been found. Though the alleged lynchers were indicted five months ago, none has been brought to trial.

5. Failure of governors of many states to take seriously protests or inquiries made by responsible organizations and leading newspapers against lynchings in their states and against the failure of the authorities to punish lynchers.

6. Confessed lack of power by certain governors to act to prevent lynching even when it is a matter of common knowledge that lynchings are likely to occur.

7. The danger to national morale due to wide-spread resentment at this crime by Negroes of the nation and particularly at the failure of responsible authorities of the law to take steps to punish lynchers or to prevent lynchings.

8. The loyal response of the Negroes of the nation to every opportunity to serve as contrasted with the failure of local authorities to act when Negroes are lynched by mobs.

9. The opinion of the Attorney General that the federal courts have no jurisdiction to deal with ordinary cases of lynching, and the opinion generally accepted by competent legal authorities that federal anti-lynching legislation under the Fourteenth Amendment is or is likely to be regarded by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

10. The ardent desire of great masses of Americans, white and colored, that the stigma of lynching be removed from America.

11. The heightened prestige at home and abroad which American institutions would receive if energetic efforts were made really to stop the lynching of Negroes.

Respectfully yours

John R. Shillady Secretary.

JRS/RR

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BOARD OF DIRECTORS Chairman, MAJOR J. E. SPINGARN, New York

Baltimore Bishop Hurst Boston Joseph Prince Loud Moorfield Storey Butler R. Wilson Buffalo Mary B. Talbert Chicago Jane Addams Dr. C. E. Bentley New Haven George W. Crawford New York Rev. Hutchins C. Bishop Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois Rev. John Haynes Holmes Dr. V. Morton Jones Florence Kennaday John E. Milholland Mary White Ovington Capt. Arthur B. Spingarn Charles H. Studin Dr. John G. Underhill Oswald Garrison Villard Lillian D. Wald William English Walling Philadelphia Dr. William A. Sinclair Springfield Rev. G. R. Waller St. Louis Hon. Charles Nagel Wilberforce Col. Charles Young, U. S. A. Washington Prof. George William Cook Archibald H. Grimké Charles Edward Russell

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