Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

By Philip S. Foner; Robert James Branham | Go to book overview

and men stand ready to crown with distinction any one of whatever race, who with ability and courage will address himself successfully to the task of settling questions that arise from age to age. The Negro scholar, untrammeled by traditional modes of thought and undazzled by glittering errors of the past, may be peculiarly fitted for that clear thinking and intellectual daring now demanded in the solution of the great problems of civilization.■


141 REMARKS TO PRESIDENT MCKINLEY

Ida B. Wells-Barnett

In February 1898, a mob of whites murdered the African American postmaster of Lake City, South Carolina, and a child his wife was holding in her arms. The mob then shot his wife and other children and burned their home to the ground. Postmaster Baker's appointment had occasioned much protest because of his color, and calls for his removal had been issued by South Carolina senators Tillman and McLauren. Baker had refused to resign. At one o'clock on the morning of Washington's birthday, the murderers set fire to the post office and Baker's home. More than one hundred bullets were fired into the house. As the Cleveland Gazette of February 28 reported:

The postmaster was the first to reach the door and he fell dead just within the threshold, being shot in several places. The mother had the baby in her arms and reached the door over her husband's body, when a bullet crashed through its skull, and it fell to the floor. She was shot in several places. Two of the girls had their arms broken close to the shoulders and will probably lose them. Another of the girls is fatally wounded. The boy was also shot.

Although a coroner's jury surveyed the sight, the editors of the Gazette made it clear that "Nothing will be done to apprehend the infernal brutes and murderers."

Postmaster Baker's murder was but one of thousands of lynchings that disgraced the nation. Because Baker was a federal employee, however, antilynching activists seized the opportunity to demand federal intervention and prosecution. On March 21, the great journalist, lecturer,

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