Lynching, like many other instances of disparity before the turn of the 20th Century, affected Blacks far more than Whites.
It was used to terrorize African-Americans accused of crimes, perceived slights or who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The National Afro-American Council, formed in 1898, was an organization devoted to combating the heinous practice.
In May 1899, the Council named June 2 of that year as a “day of fasting and prayer” in protest of a public lynching in Macon County, Ga. Sam Hose was one of the first “spectacle lynching’s” to happen in the United States.
Hose was accused of killing his employer, assaulting his wife and baby then fleeing the scene of the crime. By most accounts, Hose did commit the murder, but what is largely unclear are the circumstances that led to incident.
In April 1899 in Palmetto, Ga., Hose was publicly burned alive as White spectators watched. Afterward, onlookers rushed to collect souvenirs from his charred body.
Although there are multiple claims of which nationwide civil rights organization came first, the alliance of the National Afro-American League (NAAL) and the National Afro-American Council would form the basis of later groups.
The Negro Academy, the Niagara Movement, the National Negro American Political League, and later, the NAACP and the National Urban League all have connecting roots to those earlier groups.
The proclamation issued by the Council was a nationwide effort, and A.M.E. minister Rev. D.A. Graham delivered a sermon at the Bethel A.M.E. church in Indianapolis on June 4, 1899 as part of the protests.
Joining with other Black churches in the protest, Rev. Graham’s words came to define the movement. The entire sermon was reprinted in the Indianapolis Recorder on June 10, 1899.
Rev. Graham said lynching was racist and often used in haste, leading to the killing of innocent Black men accused of assault against white women.
“The greatest affliction we have to suffer is tie lack of trial by jury when accused of crime. Lynching of Negroes is growing to be a Southern pastime,” said Rev. Graham, as reprinted by the paper.
Rev. Graham used facts and data taken from other papers to form his argument against lynching. He didn’t excuse legitimate crimes, but asked that fair trials be held for the accused. Civil rights activist Ida B. Wells became a noted anti-lynching activist as well during that time.
Most of the five thousand lynching’s of the period took place in the former Confederate states, giving weight to the idea that lynching was a favored method of intimidation for Southern whites.