Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Authoritative spokesmen of this and other days may be summoned as absent witnesses. We have just closed our wealth of annual birthday tributes to the name and fame of Abraham Lincoln. It is fitting to recall that his inspired voice, about three quarters of a century ago, denounced lynching as “ dangerous in example and revolting to humanity.”

In 1918 another famous American, President Woodrow Wilson, solemnly appealed to "the governors of all the States, the law officers of every community, and above all the men and women of every community in the United States, all who revere America and wish to keep her name without stain or reproach, to cooperate, not passively, but actively and watchfully, to make an end of this disgraceful evil. It cannot live", President Wilson added, “where the community does not countenance it.”

A little more than two weeks ago, while the echoes of the California tragedy were still reverberating, our honored present President, Franklin Roosevelt, spoke by radio to millions of Americans these vital words:

This new generation is not content with preaching against that vile form of collective murder-lynch law—which has broken out anew. We know that it is murder, and a deliberate and definite disobedience of the commandment * Thou shalt not kill.” We do not excuse those in high places or in low who condone lynch law.

For these and other unanswerable reasons, Senator Wagner and I are looking to the American people at the present session of Congress to throw the overwhelming weight of public opinion behind the prompt enactment of a Federal antilynching law.

Mr. Chairman, perhaps the committee will desire a more specific reference than has so far been given to the pending bill. I assume that it has been placed in the proceedings of the committee this morning. Copies of it are in the hands of the members of the committee. It, of course, speaks for itself and is the best evidence of its safeguarding provisions. It may, however, be helpful to summarize its various sections.

The enacting clause declares that the act is designed to secure to persons within the jurisdiction of every State the equal protection of the laws and to punish the crime of lynching.

Section 1 defines a mob or riotous assemblage as an assemblage of three or more persons, acting in concert, without authority of law, for the purpose of depriving any person of his life or doing him personal injury.

Section 2 declares that, if any State or governmental subdivision fails, neglects, or refuses to provide and maintain protection to the life or person of any individual within its jurisdiction against mob violence, it will be deemed to have denied such person the equal protection of the laws. The provisions of the law are enacted to the end that the protection guaranteed to persons in the several States and to citizens of the United States may be secured.

Section 3 (a) provides that where an officer or employee of any State or governmental subdivision, charged with the duty of protecting life or person who has an individual in his charge as a prisoner, fails, neglects, or refuses to make all diligent efforts to give such protection, or any officer or employee responsible for apprehending, keeping in custody, or prosecuting any person participating in such a mob, who fails, neglects, or refuses to make all diligent efforts to perform such duties, shall be guilty of a felony, and, on conviction, punished by a fine not exceeding $5,000 or by imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, or both such fine and imprisonment.

Section 3 (b) declares that if any officer or employee, having in his custody or control a prisoner, conspires with any person to put such prisoner to death, without authority of law, or to suffer such prisoner to be taken from his custody or control to be so injured or put to death, he shall be guilty of a felony, and those who so conspire with such officer or employee shall likewise be guilty of a felony, the participating parties, on conviction, to be punished by imprisonment of not less than 5 years or for life.

Section 4 extends jurisdiction to Federal district courts to try and punish, in accordance with the laws of the State where the offense is committed, all participants, provided it is shown that the State officials have failed, neglected, or refused to act or the jurors in the State courts are so strongly opposed to such punishment that there is no probability that the guilty can be punished. Failure for more than 30 days after the offense is committed to apprehend or indiet persons charged with being guilty or failure diligently to prosecute such persons, shall constitute prima facie evidence of such failure, neglect, or refusal.

Section 5 provides a forfeiture of $10,000 by any county in which a person is put to death by such a mob. This sum may be recovered by suit brought by the t'nited States for the use of the family, and, if there is no family, for his dependent parents; otherwise for the use of the l'nited States. Action is to be brought in such cases and prosecuted by the United States district attorney in the C'nited States district court for such district, and, if the forfeiture is not paid on recovery of judgment, the court is to hare jurisdiction to enforce payment by a lery of execution upon any property of the county or may otherwise compel payment by appropriate procesi anul any officer or other person of such county who fails to comply with any lawful order of the court shall be liable to punishment as for contempt and to any other penalty provided by law.

Section 6 provides that, where a person put to death has been transported by the mob from one county to another between his veizure and death, the county in which he is seizei ani the aunty in which he is put to death shall be jointly and sererally liable to pay the forfeiture prorided.

Section i deals with the violation of the rights of a citizen or subject of a foreign country. It prorides that any act in a state or territory in violation of rights of a citizen er subjet of a forign country secure by treaty, which act constitutes a rinne under the laws of such state or Territory, shall constitute a like crise against the United States punishable in like manner in its curt: in the courts of said state or Territory within the perial limite br the law of such state or Territory and may be priceutel in the carts of the t'nited States ani, upen conviction, the senten eleute in like manner as ventence upon critin for crime nder the laws of the l'nite] States

[graphic]

Section 8 is the customary legislative declaration that if any provision of the law is held invalid, the application of the remainder of the act shall not be affected.

Senator Van Nuys. Thank you very much, Senator Costigan. I believe that Senator Dieterich would like to ask you a question.

Senator DIETERICH. Directing your attention to section 5 of the bill, Senator Costigan, which provides that any county in which a person is put to death by a mob or riotous assemblage shall forfeit $10,000, and providing for recovery and payment to the family, what would you think of a provision that would make the forfeiture recoverable in case the officers have not used due diligence? Do you think that could be enforced regardless of whether the officers of the county have used due diligence in trying to prevent mob violence?

Senator COSTIGAN. My answer would be in the affirmative, Senator Dieterich. There may be some question raised as to the constitutionality of such a provision, but the rest of the bill proceeds upon the assumption that the Federal jurisdiction attaches when the State or local officials fail to extend protection at least to the extent of using due diligence in that direction.

Nevertheless it seems to me that an undoubted right should attach to the victim of mob violence even though, under the guise of due diligence or with actual diligence, the State fails to extend protection.

Senator DIETERICH. The suggestion I made, I think, is proper if the forfeiture should be as to a county where the county is at fault. But I am wondering if it would not strengthen the bill at least to make the county produce evidence to show that it had endeavored to prevent mob violence, because unless they have done that the county should not be penalized, but the perpetrator should be penalized.

Senator COSTIGAN. It is obvious that the person who is the victim of mob violence, regardless of whether due diligence has been employed or not, has been denied the equal protection of the law. In view of the wide extension of the practice of extending safeguards to labor in industrial accidents, without reference to the old defenses of contributory negligence, the common-law defences which in earlier days attached, I am impressed in answer to your conclusion with the conviction that it is not asking anything which might be deemed inappropriate to have the counties subjected to this liability under such circumstances.

Senator DIETERICH. I thank you, Senator Costigan. I wanted to get your view on that particular phase of the matter.

STATEMENT OF WALTER WHITE, SECRETARY NATIONAL ASSO.

CIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE

Senator Van Nuys. We have also present Mr. Walter White, who probably needs no introduction at this time. He is an author, a nationally known social-welfare worker, who represents the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and who is secretary of that organization. He has interested himself in legislation of this kind for many years. I take pleasure in introducing Mr. White at this time.

Mr. WHITE. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, since 1882, when first reasonably complete figures began to be kept, through 1934, to date, there have occurred in the United States a total of 5,053 authenticated lynchings. Of this number, 1,438 victims have been white, 3,513 Negro. Among the victims have been 94 women of whom 17 have been white and 77 Negro.

I appear toady as a representative of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People with national headquarters at 69 Fifth Avenue, New York, and with 378 branches with a total membership of $5,000. Both the membership and the national board of directors of this organization, which celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary on February 12, 1934, are interracial.

It is difficult to find words which need be added in condemnation of lynching. There are, however, certain misconceptions which need again to be corrected, untruths and haif truths being as persistently long-lived as they are.

The first of these misconceptions which is still believed by otherwise well-informed and fair-minded persons is that there is some connection between lynching and sex offenses by Negroes on white women. In a statistical study of the crime, Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States—1889–1918, of 3,224 lynchings only 523 of the victims were even accused by the mobs themselves of rape. Of the 2,522 Negroes lynched during that period only 477 were charged with rape. Thus less than one fifth of the colored men done to death by lynching mobs were eren accused of the usual crime." It should be remembered that a mob's accusation is by no means equivalent to conviction or even to an indictment hy a regularly constituted jury.

Prof. James H. Chadbourn, of the University of North Carolina, author of that able study. Lynching and the Law, gives an even lower percentage of lynchings for rape when he states that “alleged rape is given as the offense in only one sixth of the cases." Dr. Arthur Raper of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, with headquarters at Atlanta, Ga., in his penetrating study, The Trageds of Lynching, also affirms that less than one sixth of whom (Negroes lynched from 1889 through 1930) were accused of rape."

A second misconception is that mob victims are usually guilty. In a study made under the auspices of the Southern Commission for the Study of Lynching, of which Dr. George Fort Milton, editor of the Chattanooga News, is chairman, of the 21 lynchings of 1930 Dr. Raper asserts that "2 of the 1930 mob victims were innocent of crime (they were not even accused), and there is grave doubt of the guilt of li others. In 6 of these 11 cases there is considerable doubt as to just what crimes, if any, were committed, and in the other 5 in which there is no question as to the crimes committel, there is considerable doubt as to whether the mols got the guilty man." Thus 13 of 21 persons lynched in 1930, aqvrding to this impartial and southern authority, were innocent victims of the mob's rage. As the mouths of the lynched persons are cled forerer br death, there is probably no way of determining whether or not the Suther victims Juring 1930 might also have been innovent not only of <r crimes but of any crime whatsoever.

It has been my experience to investigate persnally 41 lynchings and S race rivts In the majority of these cases investigation has

[ocr errors]

shown that the victims were either wholly innocent of any crime whatsoever or at most were guilty of a lesser crime than that for which an insane mob had taken their lives.

Defenders of or apologists for lynching are fond of asserting that though lynching is wrong, it is necessary occasionally because of the slowness of judicial procedure. The assertion is made that mobs -pring into being because they fear that guilty persons may, through the aid of overly intricate legal procedure and unscrupulous lawyers, escape penalty for brutal crimes. It is impossible to imagine a more fallacious assertion. The majority of the victims of lynching mobs are friendless, penniless individuals, wholly without political or other influence which might aid them in escaping swift punishment for crimes with which they are charged or of which they are suspected. Three fourths of the victims have been Negroes and most of these lynchings have taken place in southern or border States. I challenge any reputable and honest person to assert that there is any lack of speed whatsoever in apprehending, indicting, trying, and convicting Negroes charged with crime in these States or anywhere else in the United States. So deeply into American life and morals has lynching sunk its roots that we have witnessed in the United States within recent months the humiliating spectacle of the Governor and attorney general of a sovereign State—that of Marylandwholly impotent in the face of a mob on the Eastern Shore which lynched George Armwood on October 18 last, but we have seen as well State troops run out by the mob and the attorney general himself threatened with lynching because he sought their arrest.

In California, the Governor brazenly extolled the mob which lynched two white men charged with kidnaping and promised executive pardon to any person who might be convicted for the lynching. One cannot escape a sense of profound shame, particularly since evidence has been adduced since this double tragedy which establishes that one of the victims at least of this lynching was innocent and that a widow with two small children have been left without support because of the insanity of the mob which murdered the father.

In Missouri, recently, despite efforts on the part of the Governor and other law-enforcement officials of that State to convict the lynchers of Lloyd Warner at St. Joseph on November 28, these efforts have been abandoned following the acquittal of 1 of the 17 men arrested.

On last July 4 while America was celebrating Independence Day, Norris Dendy, a young colored man, the son of a law-abiding, prosperous, and respectable citizen of Clinton, S.C., was taken from the jail where he had been lodged following a minor altercation with a white man in which Dendy had struck the white man when called a "damned black nigger", and lynched. Eye witnesses have testified in affidavits that they positively identified not only civilian members of the mob but officers of the law who opened the jail doors to permit the prisoner to be taken and who actively participated in the synching. These affidavits have been placed in the hands of the Governor of South Carolina and on yesterday these witnesses appeared before the grand jury of Laurens County. I wish to introduce into the record at this point certified copies of the affidavits of

« AnteriorContinuar »