Freedom's Sword: The NAACP and the Struggle against Racism in America, 1909-1969

By Gilbert Jonas | Go to book overview

4.

Leading the African-American Quest for Political Power

Of the nearly 4000 persons known to have been lynched in the United States, the great majority have been Negroes. White mobs have lynched Negroes for offenses so trivial that the mob-murders seems absolutely incomprehensible, if the social background is not understood. In some Southern communities, for example, possession of any automobile other than a Ford by colored people, is frowned upon. It is a breach of the social code for a colored man driving an automobile to pass a white. For violation of these articles of the unwritten law, colored men have actually paid the death penalty, have been lynched by a mob. They have been lynched for not turning out of the road for a white person driving an automobile; for “talking back” to white people; and one negro who came to the door of a house for a drink of water, was lynched because the white woman, being hysterical, ran screaming from the house claiming the negro had come to attack her.

James Weldon Johnson, NAACP Executive Secretary, in “The Price of Lynching, ”Century Magazine, 1927, 67

I am, then, both visibly and legally the descendant of slaves in a white, Protestant country, and this is what it means to be an American Negro, this is who he is-a kidnapped pagan, who

-109-

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