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Baker, Frazier  

Glenn Allen Knoblock

was a native of South Carolina. Baker was likely born enslaved, but nothing is known of his early life. In 1880, at the age of twenty-two, he was living in Effingham, South Carolina, with his eighteen-year old wife Lavinia and earned a living as a farmer. Nearly two decades later Baker's life, and that of his family, would be turned upside down and end in tragedy as a result of a political appointment following the presidential election of 1896.

By 1897Frazier and Lavinia Baker were living in Lake City, South Carolina, their family having grown to include six children, daughters Cora, Rosa, Sara and newborn Julia, and sons Lincoln and William. In the spring of 1897Frazier Baker received a political appointment from the newly elected president, William McKinley as postmaster of the predominantly white community of Lake City How Baker gained ...


Cameron, James Herbert  

Rose Pelone Sisson

survivor of a lynching attempt, civil rights activist, and founder of America's Black Holocaust Museum, was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to James Herbert Cameron, a barber, and Vera Cameron who was employed as a laundress, cook, and housekeeper. At the age of fifteen months, James was the first African American baby ever admitted as a patient to the St. Francis Hospital in La Crosse, where he underwent an emergency operation on the abdominal cavity. By the time James started school, his parents had moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and his parents separated.

When Cameron was sixteen he was living with his mother, two sisters, and grandmother in Marion, Indiana. His stepfather Hezikiah Burden hunted and fished long distances from home so was away from his family most of the time The family lived in a segregated section of Marion Indiana which counted about four thousand blacks among its ...


Collins, Addie Mae  

Steven J. Niven

schoolgirl and terrorist bombing victim, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, the seventh of eight surviving children of Oscar Collins, a busboy in a Chinese restaurant, and Aline Collins, a domestic. Addie Mae grew up in a small four-room house on a dirt road in Sixth Court West, one of Birmingham's poorest neighborhoods. When her parents separated, making an already difficult home life even harder, Addie Mae and her sisters Janie and Sarah helped the family finances by going door to door after school, selling cotton aprons and potholders that their mother made. Interviewed by the Birmingham News in April 2001, her sisters recalled that Addie Mae was a quiet—but by no means shy or timid—child who emerged as the peacemaker whenever quarrels broke out in the family. “She just always wanted us to love one another and treat each other right,” her younger sister Sarah remembered.

In ...


Crawford, Anthony P.  

Caroline DeVoe

businessman, landowner, farmer, and lynching victim, was born into slavery in Abbeville, South Carolina, the youngest son of Thomas and Louisa, slaves on the plantation of Ben Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina. After Emancipation and Ben Crawford's death, his widow Rebecca may have bequeathed land to her former slave, Thomas, Anthony's father. Thomas continued to acquire land, and in 1873 he purchased 181 acres of fertile land from Samuel McGowan, a former Confederate general and South Carolina Supreme Court Justice. Thomas Crawford's “homeplace” was located in an alluvial valley, approximately seven miles west of the town of Abbeville. The rich land was flanked on the east by Little River and on the west by Penny Creek.

While Crawford's brothers worked the family farm Anthony was sent to school walking seven miles to and from school each day Seventeen year old Anthony was ...


Dahmer, Vernon Ferdinand  

Mark Newman

civil rights activist, was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the eighth of twelve children of a white father, George Dahmer, and a mother of mixed racial heritage, Ellen Kelly. Vernon Dahmer's complex heritage derived from both sides of the family. Born the illegitimate son of a German immigrant and a white American mother, George Dahmer had been raised with eight younger black siblings, the result of his mother's later marriage to a former slave. Ellen Kelly was the daughter of a white planter father, who gave Ellen and George Dahmer part of his land near Hattiesburg, Kelly Settlement. The Dahmer children looked white and three of Vernon's five brothers migrated to the North, where they married white women and passed as white. Some members of the family on both sides of the color divide were ignorant of the existence of relatives on the other. In adulthood, Vernon Dahmer ...


Earle, Willie  

Winsome Chunnu-Brayda

symbolic civil rights martyr, was born to Richard, a farmer, and Tessie (McKinley) Earle on 25 May 1922 in Liberty (Pickens County), South Carolina. Little is known of his formative years; however his father died in December 1939, leaving young Earle to care for his mother and four siblings at the age of seventeen.

The historical memory of Earle begins and ends in a conflicted world that was both shifting and static. By 1947 the United States, including the southern states, experienced an economic boom begun during World War II. Nevertheless the social, political, and economic opportunities for African Americans in the postwar American South were limited. For example, despite the 1944 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Smith v. Allwright, which outlawed the white primary in the American South, ten African Americans in Greenville, South Carolina were denied the right to vote in the 1946 Democratic ...


Ellington, Arthur “Yank”  

Steven J. Niven

lynching survivor and litigant, was born in Noxubee County, Mississippi, to parents whose names are unknown. Nothing is known of his early life, but around 1932 he married a woman named Kate, with whom he had two children. They moved a few miles south of Noxubee, to Scooba in Kemper County, where he began working as a farm laborer for Raymond Stuart, a prominent white planter. Ellington's new home county, known since Reconstruction as “Bloody Kemper” because of its reputation for racial violence, had witnessed fourteen lynchings between 1883 and 1930, all of them of African Americans. Indeed, whites in Kemper lynched blacks at twice the rate of other counties in Mississippi, the state with the nation's worst record for lynching.

On 30 March 1934 Ellington nearly became the fifteenth black man lynched in Bloody Kemper following the discovery of his employer s dead body Raymond ...


Frank, Leo  

Sandra D. Harvey

Jewish businessman, convicted of murder and lynched by vigilantes in Georgia. It is believed that his case contributed to the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915.

Leo Max Frank was born in Texas but soon moved with his parents, Rudolph and Rachel Frank, to Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Cornell University in 1906, Frank apprenticed in his uncle's factory. In 1907 Frank was given a supervisory position with the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, which had a sizable Jewish population. He met Lucille Selig there, and on 30 November 1910 they were married. Frank and his wife lived in an upscale Jewish neighborhood and were prominent members of the Jewish community.

On 27 April 1913, Atlanta police discovered the strangled and possibly raped body of a thirteen-year-old National Pencil Company factory worker, Mary Phagan. Authorities arrested the night watchman, Newt Lee ...


Gilliard, James E. M.  

Eric Gardner

activist and educator, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Nothing is known of his parentage or youth. He was probably the James Gilliard listed in the 1860 Federal Census of Stockton, California; if this is the case, he was a barber, his wife was named Charlotte (c. 1835– ?), and had a step-daughter, Mary E. Jones (c. 1848– ?). In the late 1860s Gilliard worked as a teacher and sometime-minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and spent time in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. He wrote several short pieces for the San Francisco Elevator—sometimes under his full name and sometimes using simply “J. E. M.”—and was noted by the editor Philip Bell as one of the weekly's best contributors (along with Thomas Detter and Jennie Carter). Gilliard was even occasionally noted as the paper's “associate editor.”

Gilliard lectured throughout California in 1870 ...


Hose, Sam  

Steven J. Niven

laborer and lynching victim, was born Samuel Wilkes near Macon, Georgia. The names of his parents, who were probably farmers or sharecroppers, have not been recorded, but it is known that his father died when Samuel was a child. Samuel, his mother, his sister, and his brother then moved a few miles south to Marshall, in present-day Crisp County in Georgia, where they earned a reputation for honesty and hard work. Samuel learned to read and write and was considered in the town to be an intelligent young man, but there were few opportunities in Marshall for African Americans other than to work as a laborer picking peanuts or cotton.

Sometime before 1896 when Samuel was nineteen years old his sister married and his mother became seriously ill leaving Sam to be the sole breadwinner in the family since his brother was severely mentally handicapped Wilkes worked for ...


McNair, Denise  

Steven J. Niven

schoolgirl and terrorist bombing victim, was born Carol Denise McNair in Birmingham, Alabama, the first child of Christopher McNair, a freelance photographer, and Maxine Pippen McNair, a schoolteacher. Denise or Niecie as her friends called her enjoyed a relatively comfortable somewhat sheltered upbringing as part of Birmingham s small but growing African American middle class Chris McNair s photography business prospered and teachers like Maxine Pippen McNair had long been the backbone of the city s tight knit black bourgeoisie Denise s parents both graduates of the Tuskegee Institute believed strongly in the importance of education and encouraged their daughter s early interest in poetry music and dance Active in the Brownies a dedicated student of the piano and a keen softball player Denise emerged as one of the most popular children in her neighborhood and at Birmingham s Center Street Elementary School Absorbing at an ...


Morgan, Nathaniel  

David Brodnax

racial murder victim, was born between 1805 and 1815. The place of his birth and his parents' names are unknown. In fact nothing is known about Morgan's life until after he moved from Galena, Illinois, to Dubuque, Iowa Territory in 1833. At that time Dubuque was a violent frontier town where several thousand whites, most from Ireland or the American South, worked on the Mississippi River or in lead mines alongside several dozen free blacks and slaves.

In 1834 Morgan's wife Charlotte maiden name unknown was one of twelve charter members of the Iowa Territory s first church Records show that several slaves also offered small donations to help build the edifice which also served as a courthouse schoolhouse and town meeting hall Despite being marginalized by a society that did not appreciate their presence the Morgans and other black Iowans were determined to have a ...


Parker, Mack Charles  

Steven J. Niven

lynching victim, was born near Tylertown, Mississippi, the eldest of four children born to Liza Parker (maiden name unknown). The name of his father is unknown, as is the family's means of making a living, but it is known that they were very poor—perhaps among the most poverty-stricken of families living in the nation's most economically deprived state. Sometime around 1942 the Parkers moved to Lamar County in the Piney Woods section of southern Mississippi, where the family of six crowded into three small rooms in a shack in the town of Lumberton. Parker, or M.C., as he came to be known, attended Lamar County's segregated public schools, but, like many African Americans in Mississippi—a state which spent far more to educate its white students than its black students—he dropped out before graduating from high school.

Faced with meager job opportunities in Lumberton Parker enlisted in the U S ...


Robertson, Carole  

Steven J. Niven

schoolgirl and terrorist bombing victim, was born Carole Rosamond Robertson in Birmingham, Alabama, the third child of Alvin Robertson, a music instructor, and Alpha Anderson Robertson, a teacher and librarian. Both Carole's mother and her maternal grandmother, Sallie Anderson, were prominent in the civic affairs of black Birmingham. Alpha Robertson helped found the city's chapter of Jack and Jill, Inc., a black women's national organization dedicated to the educational, cultural, and recreational enrichment of African American children, in which Carole was an active participant. When their Saturday morning chores were completed Carole attended weekly dance classes at a Smithfield recreation center, where she received lessons in both tap and ballet. A dedicated Girl Scout, she was also interested in music; she sang in the choir at the Wilkerson Elementary School in Birmingham and later joined the marching band at the city's Parker High School.

Robertson s ...


Sweet, Ossian  

Boyd Childress

(b. 30 October 1895; d. 19 March 1960), physician. Grandson of an Alabama slave and himself a prominent Detroit physician, Ossian Sweet was unwillingly at the center of one of the nation's major racial trials of the twentieth century. Born and raised in rural Florida, Sweet graduated from Wilberforce University and Howard University Medical School. He opened a successful practice in Detroit in 1921 and married the next year. Sweet and his wife traveled to Europe, where Sweet studied in Vienna and then in Paris under Marie Curie. After the birth of their daughter, the Sweets returned to Detroit in 1924.

In 1925 Sweet purchased a home on Garland Avenue in one of Detroit s white lower middle class neighborhoods Racial tension in Detroit was already high and a neighborhood Waterworks Improvement Association was formed in July for the unveiled purpose of maintaining ...


Sweet, Ossian H.  

Daniel Wein

physician, was born Ossian Haven Sweet in Orlando, Florida, the eldest of nine surviving children of Dora DeVaughn and Henry Sweet. In the summer of 1898 the Sweets bought a plot of land in the town of Bartow, approximately forty-five miles east of Tampa, where they ran a successful farm and lumberyard. Ossian attended Union Academy (Bartow's all-black public school) through the eighth grade. In September 1909, at the age of thirteen, he began preparatory work at Wilberforce University in Xenia, Ohio, the nation's first black college. He was initially awarded a scholarship, but it was rescinded due to lack of funds. Sweet did odd jobs around campus to help cover expenses. He started the college program in the fall of 1913 concentrating in the sciences with the goal of entering medical school Sweet earned his BS a general science degree that focused on biology chemistry ...


Turner, Mary  

Chesya Burke

lynching victim, lived in Brooks County, Georgia, with her husband, Hayes Turner. The death of Turner's husband and her own lynching were tied to a crime against a white Brooks County planter and his wife. It was a horrid case of mistaken identity that led to the murder of both Mary and Hayes Turner.

On 16 May 1918Hampton Smith, a farm owner, was murdered and his wife was beaten and left for dead. Smith's wife survived and later claimed the crime was perpetrated by three black men, whom she identified as Will Head, Eugene Rice, and Sidney Johnson. The men had allegedly entered the Smith home, stolen a rifle, and shot both Smith and his wife. The motive was believed to be tied to a gambling debt.

In a typical reactionary gesture of the times angry whites aimed to avenge Smith s death ...


Washington, Berry  

Charles Rosenberg

lynching victim, is known to history primarily because he came to the rescue of two women who were being threatened with rape in Milan, Georgia, in 1919. He killed one of the assailants and was lynched soon after, because he was of visible African descent and the would-be rapists were men considered “white.” Like many people known for one event in or ending an otherwise unnoticed life, little else about him is documented.

His family appears to have lived since the Civil War, and likely earlier, in south-central Georgia, in the counties of Dooly, Twiggs, Dodge, and Telfair. The last two counties divide the town of Milan. He is most likely the son of Jackson and Susan Washington, farm laborers in Twiggs County, near the Gordon post office. Almost certainly Washington, his parents, and all but the youngest two of his seven siblings had been enslaved.

For at least ...


Wesley, Cynthia  

Steven J. Niven

schoolgirl and terrorist bombing victim, was one of eight children born to a poor family in Birmingham, Alabama. When she was six she was adopted by Claude Wesley, a grade school principal, and his wife, Gertrude, a nursery school teacher. The Wesleys had waited a long time for their first child, and they did their best to provide her with a financially secure, culturally enriched childhood. Cynthia took dance and music lessons and was regarded as a promising student at both the Wilkerson Elementary School and the Ullman High School in Birmingham, where she did well in math and played saxophone in the Ullman school band. A vivacious child, Cynthia made friends easily, but she did not forget the siblings she had left behind, passing on to them books and other gifts that she received.

Claude tried to shield his daughter from the harsh reality of segregation though ...


Williams, Eugene  

William M. Tuttle

was the first victim of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. Little is known of his parents or his early life, but his death spurred an important legal precedent when the city paid compensation to his mother, Luella Williams, for her loss.

In a 1968 interview, Eugene's friend John Turner Harris recalled the tragic events of almost fifty years earlier that led to the death of Eugene Williams and rocked the city of Chicago. As Harris recounted, it was approaching 90 degrees on Sunday, 27 July 1919 when the fourteen year old Harris and four other teenage African American boys including seventeen year old Eugene Williams decided to skip church and go swimming in Lake Michigan The boys were not headed for the black patronized Twenty fifth Street beach nor did they intend to swim at the white beach at Twenty ninth Street Instead they were going ...