The South’s Voice on Lynching

Source Type: Newspaper
Publisher: St. Louis Globe- Democrat
Place of publication: St. Louis, Missouri
Date of publication: 12/12/1933 0:00
Source URL: View Source

THE SOUTH’S VOICE ON LYNCHING. At this time, when we are made to feel so keenly how far the curse of mob law is from being the sectional problem it is supposed to be by many, a powerful presentment is offered on the subject, which, from its very source as well as nature, ought to have a profound effect on national opinion. It is the work of the Southern Commission on the Study of Lynching, which has its headquarters at Atlanta. The formation of the body some months ago for this research, where the opportunities for research are greatest, was a subject of general gratification. Its chairman is Editor George Fort Mil- ton of the Chattanooga News. Its other personnel includes R. R. Morton, Booker Washington’s successor at Tuskegee Institute and a number of representative newspaper men and occupants of chairs at important colleges and universities in the South. The twelve scholarly men composing it might be considered a sort of unofficial grand jury charged with inquiry into this great evil in all the Southern States. And it is a true bill it reports in a printed pamphlet, entitled “The Plight of Tuscaloosa,” embody- ing the fact-finding on four instances of lynch law in that Alabama county since August 12 last. After Vaudine Maddox, daughter of a family on the re- lief rolls, had been missing for two days and her body was discovered with indisputable indications that she had been murdered. Dan Pippin, 18, and later A. T. Harden, 15, colored, were arrested, virtually without evidence. From practices of Northern police we may conjecture what the third degree is in Southern jails, when Negroes are prisoners. On the alleged confession of the 15-year-old boy, both he and Pippin and a Negro named “Honey” Clark were indicted, all three being taken to Birmingham for safekeeping after mobs had gathered. Brought back for trial, mobs became so threatening on August 12 it was decided to return them to Birmingham, but on the way, after the county line had been crossed, they were taken from deputies who made no very determined resistance, as is alleged. The mob was much more inefficient than the average. It shot two of the Negroes dead, but Clark, protected in part by their bodies, survived, though desperately wounded, to become a witness later. On September 7 Dennis Cross was lynched in consequence of an alleged molestation of a white woman, also a recipient of charity which is declared to have been preposterous, in view of the fact that Cross was a Negro paralytic and virtually helpless. That the international Labor Defense organization of New York sent down attorneys to represent the Negroes greatly inflamed community sentiment, it is said, the society being charged with teaching Communism to Negroes. The lawyers narrowly escaped lynching, being sent out of town under militia escort. Tuscaloosa, whose name means Black Warrior, is on the river of that name, served by the barge line, and sixty miles from Birmingham, being the seat of Alabama State University. According to the com- mission’s summing up the fundamental conditions favoring mob law are the white estimate of Negroes as “inferior beings,” the desire of many whites to “continue the economic exploitation of Negroes” and also the indifference of public officials. “To be accused by a white man is tantamount to a conviction and to be accused by a woman, whatever her reputation, is substantially a sentence of death,” says the commission. One of last fall’s four mob victims is declared undoubtedly innocent, two others probably so and the fourth possibly innocent. The Supreme Justices are urged to exercise their power to impeach officers who fail in their duty. This report, highly convincing in its details, from the section where a multitude of social and other conditions invest the mob problem with peculiar difficulties, is a stern rebuke to sections in which no such conditions prevail.