Sunday, November 13, 2011

Today -100: November 13, 1911: Of lynchings

South Carolina Gov. Coleman Blease gives a speech to a bunch of farmers, but rather than the speech they expected about the falling price of cotton they got one about the lynching last month in Honea Path of a black man accused of attacking a white girl by a mob led by State Legislator Joshua Ashley and the editor of the local newspaper (the story didn’t make it into the NYT at the time). In his speech, Blease said the sheriff had warned him there might be a lynching in the offing and asked the governor to send the national guard. Instead, Blease wired back telling him to send a further report... the next morning. “Sheriff King received that telegram,” Blease said, “and he understood its meaning. Next morning I received his report, and it was exactly what I expected. As a matter of fact, if it had been any different I would have been greatly disappointed.” Indeed, he says, rather than using the power of his office to deter white men from “punishing that nigger brute” (who was hung upside down by his feet and shot repeatedly), he would have resigned and gone to Honea Path (motto: “The Little Town With a Big Heart”) to lead the mob himself. The NYT says that no one in the audience of 1,000 cheered Blease’s remarks. “Most of them thought the negro met a deserved fate, but they were not prepared for the Governor of the State to laud the work of lynchers in a public address.”

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