April 28, 1899


The annals of the savage will be searched in vain for anything worse than the exhibition given to the world by the white civilization of the state of Georgia. The best that the devilish ingenuity of man has ever been able to do, in any age or among any people, to make the ordeal of death as excruciating and awful as it could possibly be made, was equaled in the torture and mutilation and burning of the negro Holt; and if any large company of human beings at any stage in the development of the race ever gave greater evidences of joy, in such a spectacle or rushed with greater eagerness to secure mementoes of the fearful tragedy in the form of pieces of the burned flesh and bits of the charred bones, history makes no record of the fact.
The nation and the whole civilized world must stand aghast at the revelation.

A civilized community numbering thousands, at the drop of a hat, throws off the restraints and effects of many centuries of progress and stands forth in the naked savagery of the primitive man. Men and women cheered and expressed feelings of triumph and joy as the victim is hurried on to the stake to make a Sunday holiday in one of the most orthodox religious communities in the United States. They cut off his ears, his fingers and other members of the body, and strip him and pour oil upon him while the spectators fought desperately for positions of advantage in the great work of torture and death. As the flames rise about the victim the people watch the quiverings of the flesh and the writhings of the frame, and shout back descriptions to the jostling, cheering hundreds on the outskirts of the ring. The negro raises a cry of agony that can be heard far away, and in a supreme effort loosens the upper part of his body from the chain which binds it to the tree. The fire is deadened while he is being chained back, and the awful agony prolonged to the evident relish of the spectators. Then more oil and fire, and death at last comes to the man's release.

Meantime the news has spread of what is going on and hundreds leave Atlanta and other places by special train to see the fun. There is a rush upon what is left of the body and spectators cut off bits of the flesh, the liver and the bones as precious souvenirs of the day. The mob is now only fairly started on the hunt for vengeance and amusement. The victim, in the midst of the torture, gives the name of one alleged to be implicated in his crime. It may have been the suggestion of truth, or it may have been the false prompting of a desperate desire to save himself. Quite likely the latter. But the mob sets off after the negro Strickland. He is seized in the dead of night. His white employer says he believes the man is innocent. No matter, the appetite for blood is up and has not been satisfied. The negro is "tried" by mob oratory and condemned. He is strung up and let down once or twice by way of extorting a confession, and through it all he protests his innocence. His ears and fingers are cut off and the body is finally left dangling from a tree limb. The mob next sets out for a negro who had been heard to say his race should be avenged, and at last accounts it was still spreading terror and death among the blacks, while a similar mob in South Carolina has inaugurated a like campaign.

And this, fellow-citizens, is the quality of the civilization of which you and we boast. This is of the white civilization we would carry to the Orient and shoot into the hearts of the Malays if we cannot get it there otherwise. Is there to be found in the story of the Malay, treacherous and bloody as he is said to be in a state of nature, anything more savage and cowardly and devilish than this exhibition in one of the original states of the American Union? It is impossible that there could be! A braggart civilization is revealed which needs to look to itself and its home problems before venturing further on a world crusade.

September 5, l899


A veteran reporter on one of the Southern newspapers, who is now visiting this city, gives and interesting account of his experiences in "covering" lynching parties. "The news that there is to be a lynching," he begins, "spreads very rapidly in the south, especially in the small cities and towns. To the reporter it is a very disagreeable business to attend these lynchings, for he is usually not overcome by frenzy like the mob made up from the immediate neighborhood, and so cannot sympathize with its method of procedure. I have attended in my capacity as a reporter At least 12 lynchings, and on each of two of these occasions I have seen as many as three negroes lynched.

"The first time I saw a triple lynching I felt no doubt as to the victims' guilt. When arrested they confessed their crime and were placed upon a pile of railroad ties which had been put along the railroad track under the shade of some tall trees, and when the rope was ready the crowd pulled the ties out from under them. Before the victims were dead they were riddled with bullets from the pistols, which are always to be found with southern men on such occasions.

"This lynching did not impress me as half so horrible as one a short time afterwards in which an innocent man named John Peterson was the victim. He was charged with the usual crime at a place near Denmark, S.C.
"He hastily made his way to Columbia, S.C., as soon as he heard he was suspected, and surrendered himself to the penitentiary authorities there, saying that he was innocent and wanted their protection. When a warrant for Peterson came from the authorities of Barnwell county, the governor surrendered him. It was known that the people in the neighborhood of Denmark were so excited that there would be little chance of the poor fellow's getting a fair trial. If he had been kept in the state penitentiary until things cooled off, the outcome would clearly have been different.

"Peterson was, however, taken back to Denmark by several officers, and the party was accompanied by representatives of all the newspapers. On arriving at the small village, we found a crowd of several hundred men and boys had assembled, and organized a mock court. It offered against the negro. None of it was very damaging except that of a woman of low character, who testified that she had seen Peterson quite near the place where the crime had been committed, and at the time.

"The crowd then took the prisoner to the home of the man whose daughter had been assaulted. She declined to identify him positively, saying that he looked like the man, but that she was not sure of him. After the crowd went back to town and placed Peterson in the lock-up, the father of the girl began to blame her severely for not fixing the crime upon the poor fellow. This man was so excited that he wanted to have the crime avenged at once, and was not particular as to who should pay the penalty. The girl was finally brought over to the point of saying that she felt sure Peterson was the guilty man. This was sufficient.
"The townspeople and those who had gathered to see the affair decided to lynch Peterson that night. The work was done so quickly after this conclusion was reached that most of the newspaper men did not know anything was going to happen until they heard the hammering of the axes on the door of the wooden lock-up. Peterson was seized and taken to a patch of pine woods not far from the home of the young woman.
It so happened that two railroad lines crossed near this point. On one of them a train bound for Augusta GA., was due in a few minutes, and a goodly number of the men present wanted to board that train to go their homes. There was also a great demand on the part of the reporters to have the job done before the arrival of the train. The telegraph facilities in the little town were insufficient to accommodate all the newspapers, and the reporters preferred to take the train and go to their home offices and there write the story. The result was that one or two of the reporters took matters into their own hands and hurried them along as a piece of newspaper enterprise. The crowd was too slow. The reporters showed them how they ought to work.. The execution took place in the regular way, hanging and shooting, and just at the moment the train arrived Peterson was dead and most of the crowd boarded the train. This was regarded as a well arranged affair.

"I had opposed lynching, and with another man had freely expressed my opinion of the victim's innocence. We were waited on by an excited group who cautioned us to say nothing of that kind or short work would be made of us. On our way back that night on the train, for we took a second train on the line crossing the one first mentioned, we continued to express our opinions freely, with nothing more resulting than an exchange of threats. Some of the crowd returning from the lynching threatened to kill us and we threatened to kill them. The powder was finally saved on both sides. It was afterwards discovered that Peterson was entirely innocent. The guilty man was found in Georgia. He confessed his crime there, and was taken in charge of by a mob in that state."

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