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lower. Johnson's devotion was to the principle involved rather than to the man. To the series of passions-forideas that had dominated Andrew Johnson: Democracy-Union-Constitution, was added Lincoln's Policies. And the adoption was more complete because the two men were alike in religious devotion to the basic principles of the Constitution. But, with Johnson, the deeper passion was for the idea rather than for individual human beings. And where that is so, we find the chance of ultimate recognition is great, and for immediate recognition, almost hopeless.
In this case, jostled by fate into a situation where the ideas he loved were in opposition to the revenge that should have been sweet, his recantation of revenge was apparently instantaneous. History is full of examples of the sobering effect of responsibility. To say that a traitor should be hanged is a very different matter from actually sending by your own consent a fellow human being to the gallows. When the touchstone of power is applied, no man can fail to react to it in some degree. Andrew Johnson reacted violently. And it is not impossible that something of the disability that attaches to all proselytes crept momentarily into Johnson's patriotism. The suddenness of his acceptance of this new and benign rôle is almost like the involuntary action of a child who shuts his eyes when he takes an unpleasant dose.
Thus it is probable that his wholesale, precipitate organization of the "Johnson Governments" was a political blunder. It is also possible that, even though the Freedman's Bureau
Act and The Civil Rights' Bill had the taint of unconstitutionality and were destined to be abused, Lincoln, had he lived, would have allowed abolitionist sentiment to discharge itself into these comparatively mild provisions, trusting to the sound judgment of the whole nation soon to recognize their unwisdom and repeal them, and so have saved all his force and all his political genius to combat such tragic follies as the later Reconstruction Acts. On the other hand, there can be no surety that even Lincoln's masterly diplomacy and all his prestige as leader of the winning side of a great war, could have won against the fanatical and venal elements that had gained control of the huge Republican majority. Certainly a struggle lay ahead of the murdered President, which would have dwarfed in difficulty even the long agony of the war. We can never be certain that the bullet of the crazed fanatic did not save Lincoln from a fate so cruel that, beside it, to die at the height of life's triu nph, was benediction.
Be this as it may be, during those first months of Andrew Johnson's administration, he stood before the American people as the spokesman of the great mass of reasonable, humane, honest men and women whose voice can be so seldom heard above the loud outcries of the passionate or the venal. And his tranquil demand that neither unwise sympathy nor revengefulness should rule-but eventempered justice and basic lawmarked the height of his career.
The first step downward was taken of his own volition. And yet the impulse was not ignoble. (To be concluded)
THE PRACTICE OF LYNCHING
A Picture, the Problem and What Shall Be Done About It
JAMES WELDON JOHNSON
is night, and quiet in the little Southern town, for people retire early. Lights are out. Yet in the silence is the sense of unease. Sleepers are restless. Some have Some have retired with an ominous feeling of troublous hours impending. There has been a trial in the local court during the afternoon-three negroes, a second time for their lives. One of them a woman. The State Supreme Court had reversed their first convictions. And the present presiding judge, in the stillness of the court-room with many eyes fixed upon him and on the prisoners, has directed a verdict of not guilty for one of the prisoners, a man. At the judge's announcement, there is a shuffling sound at the rear of the court-room. A number of white men rise slowly and saunter out. Their faces burn with the deep color of anger. Court is dismissed and the crowd slowly files out and disperses.
A few men linger to talk in small groups on the street. This night automobiles race swiftly over the roads in the dark warm silence. Eight miles from town some one has climbed a telegraph pole and with a pair of pliers is cutting wires. A little later automobiles gather about the local jail. They arrive
silently, by prearrangement, evidently. In the darkness, shadowy figures leave the automobiles, greet one another, chat casually. Some one has the key to the jail. The doors are unlocked. Figures bearing a lantern mount the steps to a tier of cells and unlock a door. A dark woman wakes from her sleep. She knows that her hour has come. A woman's piercing wail echoes through the stone corridors. She is taken downstairs to the waiting men and automobiles in the darkness-she and her companion for whom the State Supreme Court had ordered a new trial, and also the man whom the judge had declared innocent of the crime charged.
A listener at the scene, above the purring of motors and the conversation of men, might have heard screams, prayers, the entreaties of three human beings who knew they were being taken to their death. A shot rings out in the night. There is the roar of motors, of automobiles leaving hurriedly. Along the road the line of cars passes swiftly, and uneasy sleepers wake to wonder if it is a scream they have heard. The procession arrives at a clump of pines. Two dark men and a dark woman, their eyes rolling in terror, their limbs almost paralyzed, are
dragged into the obscurity of the trees. There are shots, two bodies fall. The dark woman is crawling on the ground, leaving a trail of blood. She is begging for her life, moaning in anguish. There are further shots. Then there is silence.
The next morning it is known generally, in the town, and throughout the country, that there has been a lynching. That a jail has been "stormed." That a mob has executed white man's vengeance on the bodies of three negroes. There is a thrill of horror. Men, and perhaps women too, in this country of ours, have assumed not merely the rôle of public executioner; they have dared to become murderers, in cold blood, of their fellow beings. And though editors will condemn and public men voice disapprobation, the opinion is freely expressed that no one will be punished.
This is a rough picture of the much discussed lynching that took place on the morning of October 8, 1926, in Aiken, South Carolina. With variations it might apply to many others. Some recent lynchings have occurred not at night but in broad daylight. In Clarksdale, Mississippi, a mob resenting the acquittal of a .colored man, took him from the steps of the courthouse after he had been acquitted and freed, and murdered him.
The deliberation of the Southern mob, and the powerlessness of law officers in the face of it, are well illustrated by numerous episodes during the past few years. On June 26, 1919, the New Orleans "States" carried a flaring streamer headline
on its first page announcing in large black letters that "3000 WILL BURN NEGRO," and the Jackson, Mississippi, daily "News" of the same day, announced that "John Hartfield Will Be Lynched by Ellisville Mob at 5 O'Clock This Afternoon." A sub-headline further stated that "Governor Bilbo Says He Is Powerless to Prevent ItThousands of People Are Flocking into Ellisville to Attend the EventSheriff and Authorities Are Powerless to Prevent It." The text of the despatch to the Jackson daily "News" announced that "A committee of Ellisville citizens has been appointed to make the necessary arrangements for the event, and the mob is pledged to act in conformity with these arrangements.
Two years later, on January 26, 1921, Henry Lowery was burned to death at Nodena, Arkansas, and the Memphis "Press" announced in its flaring headline: "May Lynch Three to Six Negroes This Evening." The progress of the lynching mob and their prisoner from Sardis, Mississippi, into Arkansas was carefully reported by the press, and all the details of the atrocity, including the slow burning alive of the victim, chained to a log, with a fire of dried leaves encouraged by gasoline, was fully recounted. "Inch by inch the negro was fairly cooked to death. ... Once or twice he attempted to pick up the hot ashes in his hands and thrust them in his mouth in order to hasten death. Each time the ashes were kicked out of his reach by a member of the mob."
Again on September 20, 1925, a negro was burned alive at Rocky Ford, Mississippi. "Sees Negro
Burned at Stake," read the headline over a detailed press despatch in the Memphis "News Scimitar." "I stood in a crowd of 600 people as the flames gradually crept nearer and nearer to the helpless negro. I watched the blaze climb higher and higher, encircling him without mercy. I heard his cry of agony as the flames reached him and set his clothing on fire." The rest of the despatch is best not reprinted. It is entirely too horrible.
Obviously, where women are lynched, as two were within a month, in 1926, one at Aiken, South Carolina, and one in Texas, there cannot be any question of "the usual crime," of rape. In fact, ninety-two women have been lynched in the United States in the past forty years. Something more general must be at work in communities where white men are in control of the courts, where they make the laws, to bring about such breaches in the orderly conduct of justice and social well-being.
an automobile to pass a white. For violation of these articles of the unwritten law, colored men have actually paid the death penalty, have been lynched by a mob. They have been lynched for not turning out of the road for a white person driving an automobile; for "talking back" to white people; and one negro who came to the door of a house to ask for a drink of water, was lynched because the white woman, being hysterical, ran screaming from the house claiming the negro had come to attack her.
Numerous factors of course are at work. Among them are many lumped together under the generic term of "race problem." For, of the nearly 4000 persons known to have been lynched in the United States, the great majority have been negroes. White mobs have lynched negroes for offenses so trivial that the mob-murders seem absolutely incomprehensible, if the social background is not understood. In some Southern communities, for example, possession of any automobile other than a Ford by colored people, is frowned upon. It is a breach of the social code for a colored man driving
In connection with the state of mind underlying these facts, it should be known that in the British West Indies, where the blacks and mulattoes largely outnumber the whites, attack by colored men on white women is virtually unknown; and there is practically no such thing as lynching. Lynching, therefore, as it is known in the Southern States of this country, does not concern mainly, if at all, the alleged criminality of the negro. It has its origin in the mental attitude of the ruling race toward the group it is endeavoring to keep in subjection.
Lynching is, of course, a relic of slavery. It represents the determination of a class, deprived of caste superiority formerly affirmed by law and slave code, to continue the assertion of its dominance by force. Lynching is not a punishment for the crime of rape. In the entire records of lynching, covering a period of about forty years, less than 18 per cent of the mob victims, mostly negroes, were even accused of the hideous crime. And it should be borne in mind that an accusation of rape before a mob bent on shed
ding human blood, is far from the evidence that would be required by judge or jury before indicting or convicting the accused. A hysterical accusation, later recanted, has often brought an innocent man to his death, a death by burning at stake in the presence of men and women and even children-accompanied by cruelties and mutilations that cannot be described in print.
The justification most often advanced in extenuation of the practice of lynching has been that condign and immediate punishment in most horrible form is necessary as a deterrent-that such action with all the terror of mob-rule is needed for the protection of white womanhood. And yet within recent years, many of the most prominent and representative white women in the South have met and put themselves publicly on record as repudiating this form of "protection to their honor." Perhaps the statement adopted within recent years by a committee of white women, working with the Commission on Interracial Coöperation in Louisiana, will illustrate the temper of these utterances: "We register herewith our protest against the barbaric custom of lynching, which arouses violent and unchristian passions, brings law into disrepute, is inhuman and brutal, and unknown outside of our own land of America. We hold that no circumstances can ever justify such violent disregard for law and that in no instance is it an exhibition of chivalric consideration and honor of womanhood." Utterances essentially similar in spirit and wording have been made by white women in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Texas,
North Carolina and other Southern States. In view of these statements, and of the fact that 92 women have been lynched by American mobs, "the usual crime" is pretty well disposed of as an incentive to lynching. Moreover, when the Commission on Immigration in 1911 made a study of crime in the United States, it included in its investigations some 2362 cases that had come up in the Court of General Sessions of New York, and found that the percentage of the crime of rape was lower for the negro than for either the native Americans or the foreignborn white population.
Among the individuals and the bodies that have been fighting the crime of lynching in America, it is realized that no single explanation could be found for the phenomenon. It is traceable to a hysterical state of mind induced by incendiary politicians of the Cole Blease and Vardaman type and a few newspapers representing this cast of opinion. It is rooted in resentment that the cherished past was wiped out by the Civil War. Realization of this fact was clearly expressed by Professor Edwin Mims, of Vanderbilt University, in his recent address before the Southern Society of New York. And the fight against lynching, as Professor Mims pointed out, becomes part of the new "civil war" being waged in the South in behalf of enlightenment, of free research and publication by the man of science, of free discussion of matters literary, social and political.
One of the vital threats against the lynching system, has been that of a federal law, the Dyer Anti