The importance of digging up the good, bad and ugly sides of African and African-American history, is because we live in a world that is unchanging in the way it perceives and relates with the African (Black man).
From 1916 to date, nothing has changed. Institutions of subjugation, slavery, and suppression, have only changed their names but retained their internal structures and philosophies.
The lynching, burning alive, and selling of the charred body parts of a teenage Black boy, in Waco, Texas, in 1916, is one of the vilest acts of hatred ever meted out on a Black person.
But the hurtful truth remains that if given the chance, white-Americans (although not all) would do the same thing to a Black teenager, as we have seen in the recent years, through deliberate police killings and what have you.
Just like many boys his age, Jesse Washington, a teenage African-American farmhand, was accused of a crime, which no one saw him commit. He was accused of raping and murdering Lucy Fryer, the wife of his white employer, in the rural town of Robinson, in Texas, United States of America.
His murder, which took place on the 15th of May, 1916, has been referred to as one of the most abominable, heinous and barbaric public executions in the history of the United States.
The white mob which numbered about 10-15,000, had a filled-day beating, stabbing, mutilating, and then finally hanging, before burning him to death, at the town square.
He was said to be a mentally disabled boy, who worked as a labourer in the farm. He and his family had just moved into the suburb of the Waco area, and were working on the Fryer farm in Robinsonville. They worked in the farm for a period of 5 months before the murder of Lucy Fryer.
On the morning of May 8, 1916, Lycy Fryer, the wife of Jesse’s employer was found dead in the doorway of the farm’s seed house. Reports said that her skull was bashed in.
The Police quickly and swiftly arrested Jesse Washinton, and took him to the Hillsboro jail, and then after to the Dalla County Jail. They did this to prevent an immediate lynching, even though they didn’t have any evidence that proeves that Jesse murdered Mrs Lucy Fryer.
The officers accused him of raping and murdering Lucy Fryer. During his interrogation, they wrote a statement and made him sign it, since he was not literate enough in the English language to write and read. He signed the statement with an X. Reports said that he told them exactly where the murder weapon was.
He was tried for murder, on May 15, 1916, in Waco, in a courtroom filled with angry white folks. He pleaded guilty and was hastily sentenced to death. Immediately after the court hearings were dismissed, the white folks dragged him out of the courtroom and lynched him in front of Waco’s cityhall.
The horific scene was supervised and watched by the city officials, police, and over 10,000 spectators. They were said to be in the mood of celebration and funfaire. Adults even allowed their children to come out and watch during their lunch break.
The mob took their time to castrate him, and cut off his fingers, before hanging him over a bonfire, where they repeatedly lowered him into. The burning/roasting lasted for about two hours.
After they had put off the fire, they dragged what was left of him through the town jubilating, as his body parts were cut off and sold to the town folk as souvenirs. They also had a professional photographer who took pictures of the event. The pictures were later printed and sold as postcards in Waco.
An in-depth study of the lynchings in America, which targeted Black people, out of envy and hatred, shows that it was not an uncommon occurrence for white lynch mobs to target black men who were mentally disabled or men who were new to a particular neighborhood, or town.
Jesse Washinton was new to Waco, and also a mentally disabled boy, which made him easy for the town’s while folk to target for lynching.
It is also a known fact that lynching and massacres (code-named RIOT) was used as a means to target and destabilize black families, and communities, in the 19th and 20th century.
Jesse’s murder and lynching made it to many Newspapers in the United States and also received condemnation from various quarters. The group which championed the campaign against his unjust murder was The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The NAACP then hired an investigator, Elisabeth Freeman, to investigate the murder of Jesse Washington. Her probe was concluded and submitted back to the co-founder and editor of NAACP, W. E. B. Du Bois, who published an in-depth report featuring photographs of Jesse’s charred body, in a report titled ‘The Crisis’. This report was very instrumental in the fight and campaign against the targeting and lynching of Black people in America.
The full detailed report, and background of this history can be found on Original People.
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