The Legacy of Lynchings

Little more than a month after the 90th anniversary one of the most brutal lynchings in American history, the Waco City Council passed a resolution, Tuesday, June 20, 2006 condemning lynchings that occurred throughout the city’s past.

On May 15, 1916, a young, black man named Jesse Washington was hanged and burned alive in the Waco city square in front of 15,000 people. That event became known as the “Waco Horror.” The N.A.A.C.P. investigation into the matter ignited the fire of the public conscience and helped launch a nation-wide anti-lynching campaign.

To many of us in this movement, the death penalty is a clear continuation of the racism that led to the numerous lynchings that occured in the South.

Mamie Till-Mobley, mother of 14-year-old lynch victim Emmett Till, characterized the death penalty as a system of “legal lynching.” If anyone knew about lynchings and could speak with authority about their implications, it was Emmett Till’s mother.