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The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP

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In 1916, a crowd of ten to fifteen thousand cheering spectators watched as seventeen-year-old Jesse Washington, a retarded black boy, was publicly tortured, lynched, and burned on the town square of Waco, Texas. He had been accused and convicted in a kangaroo court for the rape and murder of a white woman. The city's officials watched Washington's torture and murder and di In 1916, a crowd of ten to fifteen thousand cheering spectators watched as seventeen-year-old Jesse Washington, a retarded black boy, was publicly tortured, lynched, and burned on the town square of Waco, Texas. He had been accused and convicted in a kangaroo court for the rape and murder of a white woman. The city's officials watched Washington's torture and murder and did nothing. Nearby, a professional photographer took pictures to sell as mementos of that day. The stark story and gory pictures were soon printed in The Crisis, the monthly magazine of the fledgling NAACP, as part of that organization's campaign for anti-lynching legislation. Even in the vast bloodbath of lynchings that washed across the South and Midwest during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Waco lynching stood out. The NAACP assigned a young white woman, Elisabeth Freeman, to travel to Waco to investigate, and the evidence she gathered and gave to W. E. B. Du Bois provided grist for the efforts of the NAACP to raise national consciousness of the atrocities being committed and to raise funds to lobby anti-lynching legislation. newspapers and archives, and interviews with the descendants of participants in the events of that day, Patricia Bernstein has reconstructed the details of not only the crime but also its aftermath. She has charted the ways the story affected the development of the NAACP and especially the eventual success of its antilynching campaign. She searches for answers to the questions of how participating in such violence affected the lives of the mob leaders, the city officials who stood by passively, and the community that found itself capable of such abject behavior.


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In 1916, a crowd of ten to fifteen thousand cheering spectators watched as seventeen-year-old Jesse Washington, a retarded black boy, was publicly tortured, lynched, and burned on the town square of Waco, Texas. He had been accused and convicted in a kangaroo court for the rape and murder of a white woman. The city's officials watched Washington's torture and murder and di In 1916, a crowd of ten to fifteen thousand cheering spectators watched as seventeen-year-old Jesse Washington, a retarded black boy, was publicly tortured, lynched, and burned on the town square of Waco, Texas. He had been accused and convicted in a kangaroo court for the rape and murder of a white woman. The city's officials watched Washington's torture and murder and did nothing. Nearby, a professional photographer took pictures to sell as mementos of that day. The stark story and gory pictures were soon printed in The Crisis, the monthly magazine of the fledgling NAACP, as part of that organization's campaign for anti-lynching legislation. Even in the vast bloodbath of lynchings that washed across the South and Midwest during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Waco lynching stood out. The NAACP assigned a young white woman, Elisabeth Freeman, to travel to Waco to investigate, and the evidence she gathered and gave to W. E. B. Du Bois provided grist for the efforts of the NAACP to raise national consciousness of the atrocities being committed and to raise funds to lobby anti-lynching legislation. newspapers and archives, and interviews with the descendants of participants in the events of that day, Patricia Bernstein has reconstructed the details of not only the crime but also its aftermath. She has charted the ways the story affected the development of the NAACP and especially the eventual success of its antilynching campaign. She searches for answers to the questions of how participating in such violence affected the lives of the mob leaders, the city officials who stood by passively, and the community that found itself capable of such abject behavior.

30 review for The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP

  1. 4 out of 5

    Fishface

    A good example of how you can make something good come out of something bad. The lynching of Jesse Washington gave the newborn NAACP, then one of dozens of struggling equal-rights organizations around the country, enough traction to become a major force for good in the country. But it sure didn't bring back poor Jesse. There are some grisly photos in here; the book is not for readers with weak stomachs. A good example of how you can make something good come out of something bad. The lynching of Jesse Washington gave the newborn NAACP, then one of dozens of struggling equal-rights organizations around the country, enough traction to become a major force for good in the country. But it sure didn't bring back poor Jesse. There are some grisly photos in here; the book is not for readers with weak stomachs.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Pascal Trottier

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emmett

  4. 5 out of 5

    David

  5. 5 out of 5

    Larry Schwartz

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chris Hokanson

  8. 5 out of 5

    Clara

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Ronsen

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Haack

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kaci

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sorin Cioriciu

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kayla TM

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

  15. 5 out of 5

    Makenzie

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tameka Bradley Hobbs

  17. 5 out of 5

    Annie Drinkwater-Wright

  18. 4 out of 5

    Texas A&M University Press

  19. 4 out of 5

    William Broyles

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tiffani Ellis

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lee Stewart

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jon Oldblood

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laurarose Casillas

  24. 4 out of 5

    Julie

  25. 5 out of 5

    Artur Lipian

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  27. 5 out of 5

    Autumn

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hanna

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ramsey

  30. 4 out of 5

    Erin Hill

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