"Judge Lynch and His Victims," Richmond Planet (January 18, 1902)

Richmond Planet (January 18Richmond Planet (January 18

In "Judge Lynch and His Victims," published on January 18, 1902, the Richmond Planet reports on a speech about lynching its editor, John Mitchell Jr., delivered in Washington, D.C.

Richmond Planet (January 18


Editor Mitchell Addresses a Large Audience.


Washington, D. C., Jan. 15, 1902.

Lincoln Memorial Temple was packed last night by a most cultured and select audience. The occasion was an address by Editor John Mitchell, Jr., of the Richmond, Va. Planet on the subject, “Judge Lynch and His Victims.”

He came in response to an invitation of the Bethel Literary Society, whose guest he was.

introduced to the society.

Mr. Mitchell was escorted to the front by Prof. Kelly Miller of Howard University and later to the rostrum by Vice President W. A. Joiner, who introduced him in a most complimentary manner to the audience, which expressed its approval by its applause. He spoke as follows:

that dark period.

It is hardly necessary to refer to the dark days preceding the Civil War. Uncle Tom’s Cabin has painted in eternal colors the horrors of that night of the black man’s woe.

It is our intention to refer to a later period following the shedding of the black man’s blood in three wars that the nation might be what it is to-day and that this government might not perish from the earth.

a change of condition.

Before the war, the colored man was a white man’s property. After the war the title of ownership was conveyed to himself. Before the war, the loss fell upon the white man. After the war, the loss fell upon the colored one. This constituted the impetus which robbed a man of his life and made the destruction of colored people a pastime, and the docility of the victims, ensuring the safety of the lynchers made it a pleasure of a kind, both safe and exhilarating.

These drum-head trials conducted at times in the moonlight or by the aid of pine knots led them to be styled the court of Judge Lynch.

a heavy death rate.

It was this untoward reference which caused me to decide to discuss here tonight the subject “Judge Lynch and his victims.”

It has been estimated that no less than fifty-thousand persons have been offered as a sacrifice upon the altar of this American system of lawlessness.

A record kept by the Richmond, Va. Planet from July 26, 1887 to Dec. 23rd, 1889 showed a total of 380 persons lynched. It may be of interest to note why some of these victims were lynched.

He then cited instances of lynching. Continuing Mr. Mitchell said:

From Jan. 5th, 1897 to Jan. 5th, 1898, I had a record of 167 persons lynched, and from Jan. 5th, 1898 to Oct. 20, 1900, 397 persons.

the lynching of a postmaster.

No crime in modern times can exceed in atrocity the outrageous butchery of Frazier J. Baker, the colored post-master at Lake City, S. C. He was an officer of the government, [sic] He was awakened in the dead hours of the night to find his residence in flames. As he groped his way to the outside, the lynchers fired upon him and his family, killing the babe in its mother’s arms and wounding the son and daughter and dangerously injuring the wife of his bosom. He fell, Mr. President, and died a martyr’s death.

There was not enough left of him to make a funeral and his penniless family depended upon the charities of citizens, while a government, powerful in men and rich in resources extended no arm to save.

mr. white’s proposition.

One citizen of color, Mr. President, then a member of Congress had the manhood to offer a bill providing for the appropriation of $25,000 for the benefit of his family. It sleeps the sleep, Mr. President, of the unjust, buried unlike Baker, beyond the hope of resurrection.

Hon. George H. White, the patron of the measure did his duty, but the country was deaf to all appeals. It has paid the penalty however, Mr. President. It tolerated anarchy and encouraged lynching. It reaped what it had sowed and as a result, the lamented chieftain, Mr. [William] McKinley has been sacrificed upon the altar of lawlessness and a nation is in tears, [sic] [McKinley was shot and killed by an assassin in September 1901.]

a comparison of criminals.

Whether it will learn the lesson and profit by its teachings remains to be seen. Certain it is that [Leon] Czolgozah [McKinley’s assassin], the anarchist is no worse than the white men who robbed the hapless Baker of his life. Certain it is, Mr. President, that the sorrow of Mr. Kinley’s [sic] widow surrounded as she is and has been by all of the sympathy and comfort that a wealthy nation can give is no greater than that of that lonely black South Carolina woman, who is now a stranger in a strange land, with a family dependent upon her for support and in a climate for which she is not suited and surroundings which caused her to long for home.

But this is a great nation. It disregards the lessons of history, ignores the great principles and rushes on to certain destruction and premature decay.

a visit to the white house.

Standing in the Executive Mansion, Mr. President, I had the honor to be the spokesman for the delegation which requested the late President McKinley to intervene in the State of North Carolina and see to it that the laws of the United States were respected and obeyed. At that time, Mr. President, colored men were exiles and those who remained were in hiding.

United States naval officers were said to have participated in the horrible massacre at Wilmington, N. C. and the lynchers made no effort to conceal their identity.

condemned by gov. russell.

Governor [Daniel L.] Russell, the greatest Republican coward of the century was virtually crouching in his office at Raleigh, N. C., thoroughly scared for his future and fearful of an assault upon his worthless life. In the midst of all this, the delegation headed by that brainy uncompromising race advocate, Alexander Walters made his appeal.

mr. mckinley’s promises.

We might as well draw the curtain. Mr. McKinley promised that he would do all in his power to right the existing conditions. He said he had a way to do it. What that way was has never been disclosed. Suffice it to say that A. M. Waddell and his coterie of buccaneers overturned the city government, took possession and as yet control the destinies of Wilmington, N. C.

horrible conditions.

The parade of the Red shirts was at an end and silence reigned. But it was Mr. President, the silence of death. In the swamps, the woods, on the river banks the bodies of the hapless colored victims were found and the survivors bewailed their untimely taking off.

They prayed to God for sympathy and asked the public for relief.

It came not. The murderers had themselves satisfied their murderous instincts. The State and the national governments were silent and the law proceeded to take another long sleep.

no more comment.

We comment no more on this phase of the question, Mr. President. The result is soon told. The Buffalo tragedy [i.e., McKinley’s assassination], the last home-coming of the president to Washington, the dreary trip to Canton, Ohio, the grief of the nation, the tolling of solemn-sounding bells, the tramp of mournful soldiery and the requiem at the grave emphasizes that the culmination of this form of anarchy should be at an end.

a bloody record.

Why then should I refer to the colored man lynched January 7th, 1898 for stealing a two dollar hog, or William Bell lynched April 2nd, 1898 at Amite City, La. for no crime whatever, or William Street, colored, burned at the stake June 22nd, 1898, at Devline La., Joseph Williams, lynched July 22, ’98 at a place called Scotland Neck, S.C., simply because he was impudent to a white man, or Alexander Walker, colored, who was lynched Aug. 18, 1898 at Pleasant Hill, Ala. because he was troublesome, or James Nealey, colored, who was lynched Aug. 19th, 1898 at Hampton, Ga. because he wanted a drink of soda water, or the eleven colored men lynched Nov. 9, 1898 at Phoenix S. C. or the 23 persons lynched March 22nd, 1899 because they were troublesome in Arkansas, or Albert Sewell, colored, who was lynched April 24th, 1899 at Palmetto, Ga. because he talked too much; or the old colored preacher, Rev. Lige Strictland, who was lynched April 23rd, 1899 at Palmetto, Ga.?

These are bloody references, Mr. President, and the limited time makes it impossible for me to comment upon many more of a similar character.

The speaker then cited other lynchings. He continued:

builded better than he knew.

It is but fair however, to refer to the affair which occurred July 27, 1900 in in [sic] the city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana. I do not know what you think about the matter; but when Robert Charles sold his life as dearly as possible and left for his lynchers a lifeless body, he builded better than he knew and set an example which every man in the country should imitate.

Officers had attempted to arrest him when he had committed no crime. In the affray which followed, one was killed, and another was wounded. A howling mob attempted to lynch him.

a defiant taking off.

Charles was smoked out, when he came it was with a rifle in his hand.

He fired with deadly accuracy and unerring aim, adding eleven persons to the list of those who fell under fire of that death-dealing repeating firearm.

A bullet pierced his breast and he expired before his enemies could reach him. Were it in our power, we would build a monument to his memory, setting forth his manly virtues and commending his action to the favorable consideration of a waiting world.

a lesson from virginia.

On the night of Aug. 7, 1900, a mob of white men visited the home of Paul Smith, colored, who resides near Pleasant View, Amherst County, Va. for the purpose of punishing him for trouble which he had with Martin, a white man. They demanded that he should come out and deliver himself up to them. Brother Smith, didn’t come out, but from his windows and doorways there came such a patter of shot and bullets that it seemed that the United States government had established a land battery with orders to fire upon the approach of danger.

all were wounded.

It is reported that every member of the mob was wounded. Those who couldn’t run walked, those who wouldn’t walk limped, and those who wouldn’t do either groaned on the ground and called for assistance.

No more pic-nic parties of this kind have been heard of in that neighborhood.

Lynching is anarchy, and either the lynchers or the anarchists are outlaws.

When colored men throughout the country act like white men, buy firearms for hunting purposes and use them against lawless mobs be they white or black, this dangerous business will be discontinued and the citizen of color be permitted to live in peace.

worse than horrible.

It is announced that 2516 lynchings have been recorded during the past 16 years. Of these 2080 took place in the Southern States and 436 in the Northern states. Of these 1678 were colored people. Of these the Chicago Tribune [September 1, 1901, page 1] says:

“The crimes or alleged crimes which caused the people to take the law in to their come near exhausting the calendar. Murder and rape head the list in point of number, but there is a total of 112 other offenses given as excuses for lynch-law. Some of the crimes were of the most petty nature. For instance, one man was lynched for slapping a child, another for jilting a girl, another for drunkenness, another for throwing stones, another for colonizing Negroes, another for enticing a servant away, two paid the extreme penalty for eloping, two for writing insulting letters, three for being unpopular, two for practicing hoodooism, three for keeping saloons, five for swindling and five for gambling.

states without lynching.

[“]Ten people were executed for no offense whatever, while 92 were lynched for unknown causes.

[“]Vigilantes are charged with 14 deaths, white caps 9, Indians 1; moonshiners 1; desperadoes 1. The only States in which no lynchings have occurred are Massachusetts, Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Utah.[“]

What is the cause of all this, Mr. President, and what is the remedy?

These questions are easily asked. Can they be as easily answered? Let us see.

The greatest enemy that the citizen of color has in this country to-day is the poor white man of the Southland. He regards with jealous eyes all progress made by the new citizen of the new republic. It must be admitted that the friction now existing is manifesting itself in an increasing ratio.

a heavy increase.

A race of people that was penniless in 1865 is now worth $600,000,000.00 in 1902 and to-day the tide is still rising.

In proportion as the estrangement is increasing between white and black labor the bond of union is increasing between black labor and white capital.

It must be conceded that the virtual retirement of the citizen of color from politics has caused him to reach out in the fields of industrial endeavor and practical commerce.

The very ostracism which has been exercised towards him has tended toward his segregation and Mr. President, he is building up a nation within a nation. This seems to be a startling declaration impossible of accomplishment, but it is nevertheless a fact.

in the land of oppression.

Where the sun shines and liberty smiles, granting all of the beneficient [sic] indulgence of the New World, the progress of the American citizen of color is slow. But “Way Down South” where prejudice is rampant and lawless laws prevail, he is coming in a way that has

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Richmond Planet (January 18

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(Continued from 1st Page.)

startled and surprised the best white minds in all that land of flowers.

Shall I paint the picture, Mr. President, or will you imagine it for me?

The deluge of blood has watered the soil and the flow of tears has sprinkled the fields until I tell you we have homesteads occupied by the citizens of color.

a beautiful picture.

The old plantations in many instances have passed into the hands of the former slaves. Fine teams with ebony colored drives and black mistresses may be seen upon the road-ways.

Beautiful daughters of the despised race have returned from northern colleges, while those in the South established by Yankee beneficence have turned out trained colored gentlemen and accomplished colored ladies.

There are tens of thousands of homes from which you can hear floating out upon the evening air, the choicest selections from Wagner or Mendelsohn.

The denial to him of the use of the political ballot has led him to reach out for the dollar ballot and it counts at the financial polls of the nation every time.

the call of the race roll.

The same despised members of the body politic have lawyers, doctors, theologians, real estate agents, scientists, professors, editors, authors, college presidents, insurance agents, insurance companies, merchants, sculptors, artists, bank cashiers, bank presidents, managers of publishing houses, statesmen, office holders and all that ten to make a progressive and prosperous people.

surprising statistics.

But Mr. President, it is the people who hold no political office who are making the greatest material progress. We have been sent to the rear, but sir, we are coming again. I compiled some statistics to show the wonderful progress and the stupendous resources of this great people with whom I am identified. The states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee and Arkansas produced according to the reports of the Department of Agriculture in 1899, 408,327,273 bushels of corn, the value of which was $171,334,721; 32,557,954 bushels of wheat, the value of which was $24,441,418; 50,858,765 bushels of oats, the value of which was $18,355,337, the aggregate value for one year being $214,131,476.

The Negroes of the South in 1899 produced 11,235,383 bales of cotton which was 99 per cent of the entire cotton consumption of the world.

stupendous revenues.

On a basis of 8 cents per pound in the world’s markets the value of the product for one year was $487,730,521.68.

Add this, if you please, to the value of the product of corn, wheat and oats for one year and you have the mammoth revenue of $651,861,997.68, more than 90 per cent of which is being produced by these much persecuted people. This does not include the sugar, molasses and tobacco produced by these black citizens of the Southland.

a reference to virginia.

According to the report of the Auditor of Public Accounts the value of the property of the colored people both real and personal in 1900 was $15,856,570 and in 1901, it was $16,822,611, an increase of $966,041 in 12 months.

The number of acres of land owned by the colored people in 1900 was 993,541 acres and in 1901, it was 1,066,303 acres, an increase of 72,762 acres in 12 months.

The whites owned 150,846 acres less in 1901 than they did in 1900. It shows that the land of the commonwealth is slowly but surely passing into the hands of the colored people. In Richmond, the value of property, both real and person owned by colored people in 1900 was $1,116,659 and in 1901, it was $1,199,211, an increase in one year of $82,552. Mr. Mitchell then spoke of the Mechanics’ Savings Bank recently organized at Richmond, its phenomenal success and the necessity for colored people to build up their own enterprises and employ one another.

increases animosity.

It is this progress, Mr. President, which is increasing the animosity of the poor whites and to an extent at least, increasing the jurisdiction and power of Judge Lynch.

Will a retrograde movement lessen the evil? Will a yielding up of our material wealth, the relinguishment [sic] of our hopes for the future cause a cessation of the evils from which we now suffer? Will it cause an indefinite adjournment of the court of Judge Lynch and give us some peace on this side of the Jordan?

It might do it, Mr. President, but the results following would be worse than the evils from which we now suffer. It brings to mind the old familiar anthem,
“I can but perish If I go,
I am resolved to try,
For if I stay away I know,
I must forever die.”

We have set the banner of social elevation and material prosperity upon the ramparts. To haul it down would be cowardice. To retreat would be social annihilation.

must press forward.

It is better to lose a few men, yea 50,000 and succeed than to feel the odium of cowardice and experience a living death this side of the grave.

Then comes out to us from the ancestral archives of the past, the divine injunction to God’s chosen people[:] “Speak unto the Children of Israel that they go forward.”

What then is the remedy? What shall we do? What course shall we pursue?

I would advocate manhood courage; that element which makes a boy a man, a people, great. Die, if need be in defense of rights denied. Defend your homes against all comers.

the ringing warning.

Make every cabin in the Southland an arsenal and let the cowardly skulking lyncher know that when he comes to lynch a man, be he black or white, grizzled or gray, he might as well bring along a lumber wagon with his coffin in it.

When this edict has gone forth and lynchings as a rule becomes a dangerous business, the cowards will quit that kind of association.

Let us be polite, obliging, making friends with the better class of white people and our present will be pleasant and our future secure.

Oh, that the colored people of the United States could seen these things as we see them.

the end of our misery.

When this advice is heeded, the news will be flashed from one section of the country to the other. The birds will warble it in their carols and even the dew of the evening will reflect it through the sun’s setting rays. The western glow with its beams will tell of the dissolution of this evil of the century and Judge Lynch and his victims will live only in song and story as a horrible nightmare though a grim reality of other days.

Colored men of the republic, hope brightens our pathway and the divine promises cheer us onward. Let us turn our backs upon the past and look to the future, pressing our fingers in our ears like Bunyan’s pilgrim rush onward to the city of material prosperity, the realm of everlasting bliss beyond.

a gratifying conclusion.

He concluded his remarks amidst prolonged applause. Mrs. Julia W. McAdoo rendered with electrical effect and skill two renditions which greatly pleased the audience.

President Joiner announced that the paper was open for criticism.

It was commended by R. S. Smith, Esq., and Mr. Gordon. Prof. J. W. Cromwell moved a vote of thanks to the speaker of the evening for his most excellent address. He related circumstances in Editor Mitchell’s early life, and his skill at map-drawing.

Hon. Lewis H. Douglass, son of the late Frederick Douglass seconded the motion, declaring that Editor Mitchell was a man after his own heart. Mr. Hirshaw did likewise, also Mr. Watson.

The motion was carried, also including Mrs. McAdoo for her selections and the meeting adjourned.


"An act about the casuall killing of slaves" (1669) Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Charles Lynch (August 1, 1780) "From the Vicksburg Register," The Floridian (July 25, 1835) Virginia Mob, New-York Spectator (August 20, 1835) "Horrible Tragedy," Raleigh Register and North-Carolina Gazette (May 24, 1836) "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions" by Abraham Lincoln (January 27, 1837) "The Execution Yesterday," Richmond Daily Dispatch (October 22, 1864) Depositions for the Claim of Benjamin Summers (February 6, 1872) "Page Wallace's Crime," Richmond Dispatch (February 3, 1880) "Lynch Law, Again," Richmond Dispatch (February 19, 1880) "Lynched!," Staunton Spectator (October 3, 1882) "Coalition Rule in Danville" (October 1883) "The Danville Riot," Richmond Dispatch (November 4, 1883) "The Negro and the Criminal Law"; chapter 6 of The Plantation Negro as Freeman by Philip Alexander Bruce (1889) "They Hanged Him," Richmond Dispatch (November 9, 1889) "The Clifton Forge Tragedy," Roanoke Times (October 20, 1891) Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases by Ida B. Wells (1892) "Brutal Attempt of a Negro," Roanoke Times (February 10, 1892) "The Police Force Wakes Up," Roanoke Times (February 11, 1892) "Judge Lynch!," Roanoke Times (February 12, 1892) "Viewed by a Thousand People," Roanoke Times (February 13, 1892) "Richlands' Lynching," Clinch Valley News (February 3, 1893) "Lynch Law and Barbarism," Richmond Dispatch (August 3, 1893) "Peace and Quiet," Roanoke Times (September 22, 1893) "Lynch Law"; excerpt from Governor Philip W. McKinney's Address to the General Assembly (December 6, 1893) "Rev. Dr. Hatcher's Surprising Assertions," Richmond Planet (June 23, 1894) "Hanged by a Mob," Alexandria Gazette (April 23, 1897) "The Lynchers Were Convicted," Richmond Planet (July 8, 1899) "The Lynching of Negroes"; chapter 4 of The Negro: The Southerner's Problem by Thomas Nelson Page (1904) U.S. Senate Resolution 39 (June 13, 2005)

APA Citation:
Richmond Planet. "Judge Lynch and His Victims," Richmond Planet (January 18, 1902). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Richmond Planet. ""Judge Lynch and His Victims," Richmond Planet (January 18, 1902)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 23 Jun. 2024
Last updated: 2021, April 29
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