They Weren't Guilty, But The Mob Killed Them

NAACP leaders holding poster
Shonda Buchanan
August 13, 2020

Joe James and George Richard could hear the mob of over 5,000 angry whites amassed outside of the courthouse, yelling threats and throwing rocks and bottles at their jail cell window. 

Why were thousands of angry whites calling for their deaths?

It’s an old story: one was accused of raping a white woman, one of killing a white man. Were they guilty? Nobody cared.

The sheriff, knowing the mob would murder the men if they could, secretly moved them out of the jail to safety. But the mob wasn’t done yet.

When they discovered the men had been moved, the mob’s rage and bloodlust exploded. Over three days, they ran nearly all the Black residents out of town and burned Black homes and businesses.

But property destruction couldn’t satisfy them. The vicious animals needed more.

65-year-old Scout Burton, a barber, and 84-year-old William Donegan, a wealthy cobbler married to a white woman for 30 years, were brutally lynched.

In total, nine Black people were murdered. The Black community suffered $150,000 in damages – the equivalent of $4.6 million today.

This wake-up call was a catalyst for the 1909 founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Despite the racist tyranny we continue to face, we must always come together to stand up for our rights!

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