The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983 Page: 536
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
white southerners made lynch law justifiable, even necessary. Nor was
the barbarity of the mob particularly unusual for the time. Moreover,
the refusal of Waco officials to seek indictments against the ringleaders,
even though their identities were known throughout the city, indicates
that this incident followed a pattern generally adopted by local officials
dealing with similar acts of violence.'
Significantly, however, in lynching Jesse Washington, the mob in
Waco unwittingly provided the NAACP with a cause c6l6bre that the
national association could utilize to invoke support for a systematic
campaign to halt lynchings. To capitalize upon Philip Peabody's offer
to fund an antilynching crusade, the NAACP needed a particularly
sensational incident to demonstrate to the American people the ur-
gency of a federal antilynching bill. The burning and mutilation of an
illiterate black farm hand, graphically documented by Fred Gilder-
sleeve's camera, packed the necessary emotional punch to dramatize
the exigency of federal action. In addition, the fact that this incident
occurred in a city reputed to be an enlightened, respectable, middle-
class community supplied the NAACP further evidence of the breadth
of a lynching mentality in the United States. And yet, despite the
seemingly advantageous timing of the "Waco horror," the campaign
fell victim to the inopportune entrance of the nation into the First
World War, thereby forcing the NAACP to postpone its federal anti-
lynching crusade until 1919.
"What's goin' to happen to th' naygur?" Hennessy asked Mr. Dooley
in a conversation over the "Negro problem" in the United States.
"Well," said Dooley, "he'll ayther have to go to th' north an' be a sub-
jick race, or stay in th' south an' be an objick lesson."38 While the
NAACP had hoped to exploit the "Waco horror" to further its anti-
lynching program, Jesse Washington's death unfortunately became
but another "objick lesson" reminding blacks of the dire consequences
awaiting those who stepped outside their "place" in American society.
37Freeman, "The Waco Lynching," 13. After several days of talking to local citizens
about the lynching, Elizabeth Freeman had acquired the names of six men who repre-
sented "the disreputable bunch of Waco" and who had participated in the mob's activi-
ties. Ibid., 19. The pattern adopted by local officials in the United States of refusing to
seek prosecution of known mob participants is noted in Arthur F. Raper, The Tragedy of
Lynching (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1933), 2, 13-17, and Zangrando, The NAACP Crusade
Against Lynching, 4, 8.
88Finley Peter Dunne, "The Negro Problem," Mr. Dooley's Philosophy (New York,
Waco City Hall, about 191o. Courtesy of the Texas
Collection, Baylor University.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983, periodical, 1982/1983; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/m1/596/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.