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The First Waco Horror: the Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACPis the story of the public torture and murder of Jesse Washington, a year old retarded black boy, on the town square of Waco, Texas, inbefore an audience of 10, screaming, cheering spectators. The book also describes the efforts of the fledgling NAACP to investigate, dramatize and publicize the event in order to expose the reality of the crime of lynching and force the nation to see it for what it was.

Freeman, clever, courageous and relentless, used all of her skills and wiles to get the facts and identify the lynch mob leaders. The story of the Waco Horror begins with the discovery of a body. Just about sundown on the evening of Monday, May 8,near the town of Robinson, eight miles south of Waco, twenty-one-year-old Ruby Fryer and her brother, fourteen-year-old George Fryer Jr. In the heavy heat and quiet of the late afternoon, they noticed that their mother, Lucy Fryer, was not in the house as usual.

Just as George was going out to look for her, Ruby peered through the window and saw Lucy lying in a pool of blood in the doorway of the seed house, about thirty steps away. It was probably Simon who ran for George Fryer Sr. Both Stegall and Jenkins were highly regarded peace officers. Jenkins began his career in law enforcement as a Texas Ranger in at the age of eighteen and was elected constable in Later he served as deputy sheriff, detective, and chief of police.

He served Waco as constable from toand then was elected McLennan Hot naked women Waco sheriff for the next ten years. Although Fleming got most of the credit for solving the murder of Lucy Fryer, it was Lee Jenkins, according to at least one newspaper report, who immediately found evidence that pointed to a suspect. Fryer or the children and close enough to know that after the noon meal no one else was around. Jesse Washington, with his mother and father, Henry and Martha, and at least one brother, William, possibly about sixteen, had been living and working on the Fryer farm for only five months or so, since the beginning of the year.

Jesse Hot naked women Waco was a large, strong young man, but was illiterate and possibly retarded. One lifelong resident of Robinson, Thomas Hague, claimed in an interview that he was told by his father, Hugh Hague, who was a close friend of George Fryer Sr. The more revealing detail is, rather, the fact that, after Jesse Washington supposedly raped and killed Lucy Fryer, he went placidly back to planting cotton as if nothing had happened and made no effort to escape or to cover up his crime other than hiding the hammer that was later said to have been used in the attack.

Whatever the intelligence or temperament of the alleged assailant, as soon as word of the murder of Lucy Fryer got out, a general hue and cry arose in the Robinson neighborhood. From the first, the Herald seasoned news stories about the murder with incendiary language deed to make the tale more dramatic. Fortunately for Jesse Washington, the officers found him before the men of Robinson did. He was sitting in his yard, unconcernedly whittling a piece of wood Click the links below to read other excerpts from The First Waco Horror :.

While he was there, he took the time to see the National Civil Rights Museum.

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Built around the remains of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The museum le visitors through the history of the abuse heaped on black Americans over more than three hundred years and the long, grinding struggle to win equal treatment. But in one corner of the museum, in a display about the lynching of almost five thousand Americans, most of them black, between andLawrence Johnson spotted a photograph that sears the sight of the viewer.

The picture Lawrence Johnson saw is infamous among historians who study early-twentieth-century America. It has appeared in many books about lynching and in at least one history of Waco. This photo is still not well known to most Americans, though it should be as familiar as the flag raising on Iwo Jima inthe image of the Hindenburg airship bursting into flame over Lakehurst, New Jersey, inor the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a naked, weeping Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm bomb in The picture Lawrence Johnson saw, taken by Waco commercial photographer Fred Gildersleeve, is one of the few extant photographs of a lynching caught in progress rather than after the fact.

This ocean of flat-brimmed white hats is lapping against a scraggly little tree in the center of the square. Only when you look closer do you see a fuzzy area in the center of the picture, below the tree, like a ribbon of smoke. And then, through the smoke, you can just make out. A naked human being lies collapsed at the bottom Hot naked women Waco the tree on top of a smoldering pile of slats and kindling.

Around his neck is a chain, which stretches up over a branch of the tree. A man in a white shirt with a dark fedora mashed down on his head stands by the folded-up body, yanking on one end of the chain. He is wearing a heavy glove on the hand that holds the chain because it has been heated by the fire and is hot. This self-appointed executioner may have been caught in the act of jerking the blistered creature below the tree upright against the tree trunk in order to display him to the mob.

Or perhaps he has just lowered his victim back into the fire. In the meantime, another man in white shirt and light-colored hat is poking and prodding the dying man with a stick or rod of some kind, almost as if he is trying to turn the body on the fire.

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The onlookers watch intently. Some appear to be smiling or shouting encouragement to the torturers. After standing transfixed for a moment before the picture, Lawrence Johnson read the caption and learned to his amazement that this particular lynching had taken place in Waco, Texas, his hometown, on May 15, The caption also explains that the mayor of Waco, who watched the entire episode from an excellent vantage point on the second floor of City Hall, was concerned that the lynchers might damage the tree but expressed no concern for the human being who was stabbed, beaten, mutilated, hanged, and burned to death before his eyes.

Lawrence Johnson had lived in Waco all of his life but had never heard of the lynching of Jesse Washington. In MayJohnson Hot naked women Waco the city of Waco and other city council members by reading the story of the lynching of Jesse Washington, as described at the time in unblinking detail in the Waco Times Heraldduring his swearing-in for a fifth term as city councilman.

He further stunned his audience by demanding that city officials formally denounce the lynching and commission some kind of monument or memorial that would describe and disavow what had Hot naked women Waco. The lynching was a city-condoned event, Johnson said; the mayor and police chief watched and did nothing.

It was up to the city to make amends. The sadistic nature of the crime and the enthusiastic participation of thousands as spectators are plain in the photograph described above and in others taken by commercial photographer Fred Gildersleeve that day. Even in the vast bloodbath of lynchings that washed across the South and the Midwest during the late s and the early s, the Waco lynching stands out. There were so-called race riots in other cities, large and small, in which dozens of black people were injured or killed and whole black neighborhoods destroyed.

There were also other supremely hideous lynchings of individuals and small groups of people, but most of these took place in small towns, rural areas, or out in the woods. The Waco Horror—public torture treated as a thrilling spectacle by thousands in a well-established modern city with some pretensions to culture and enlightenment—was unique. Yet the story behind the killing of Jesse Washington has up to now been largely unexplored beyond periodic brief mentions in histories chronicling the mistreatment of blacks in America, a few scholarly articles, and the eight- discussion in the July issue of The Crisis.

How could such a medieval barbarity possibly have taken place in our own nation within the memory of persons still livingin front of many educated, middle-class people who enjoyed all the comforts of the modern age, including automobiles, ready-made clothing, telephones, and public libraries?

The true story of the lynching of Jesse Washington, told here at length for the first time, is not a simple one. Villains appear in this tale, as do unsung heroes, although, unfortunately, no heroes stepped forward in Waco on May 15, They were brought irrevocably together by the public murder following prolonged torture of a black Waco teenager named Jesse Washington-the atrocity that became known as the Waco Horror. Villard of the Evening Postour treasurer, asked me when I came back from Georgia to get the inside story of the next horrible lynching so that he can write it up and spread it broadcast through the Southern press over his own name.

Nash advised Freeman that her suffrage work throughout Texas would give her a cover to investigate the lynching and an excuse for being in Waco. Of course, I am working in the dark-not quite knowing what you want me to get.

Mayhaps I am not getting what you want. It seems that, at first, the investigation of the Jesse Washington lynching was almost a game to her. She saw it as a challenging asment, a departure from her customary work of making speeches and inspiring women to the suffragist cause-an exciting new project which she attacked with her usual energy and optimism. But before long, the tone of her letters to Nash changed. She also began to sense that what she was doing was dangerous. Every one is closing up as tight as a clam. Patricia Bernstein. The First Waco Horror. Buy Now.

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