Lynching in America and Marion
by: Meredith Kuczora
The Marion lynchings were premeditated murders that emulated the nationwide and ritualistic practice which occurred due to social and racial issues.
The Marion lynchings were premeditated murders that emulated the nationwide and ritualistic practice which occurred due to social and racial issues. The reasoning for both national lynchings and Marion’s lynchings were similar in nature and based off of male white supremacy beliefs. The people of Marion were well-informed of the lynching process due to the influence of their local newspaper and their actions were a result of deeply-ingrained human sacrificial nature.
Background and Rationale
Marion was like most parts of the country in the 1930's, it was industrially prosperous, it had a growing population, and there was tremendous racial tension. This racial conflict resulted in Marion's most infamous event on August 7, 1930. Citizens of Marion and of its surrounding towns, organized the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. People today may be shocked to discover that the last lynching in the United States occured in the North. However, after researching Marion's local Newspaper, The Daily Leader (later known as The Marion Daily Chronicle) from the 1890's until the 1920's, I found that almost daily, there are reports of lynchings nationwide, both in the North and the South. In fact, some of the more blatantly racist articles were published in Indiana, like that of Evansville, IN in 1891. In this particular article about a lynched African American who was accused of assault is entitled, "Deserved His Fate". A large majority of these newpaper articles, that are found between mundane ads for cigars and wallpaper, are very similar in nature. The story is the same, an African American man is accused of sexual assualt or of a stray shooting and is condemned and prosecuted by the vigilante white community. In fact, "the main reasons for the lynching of Afro-Americans were murder and rape or attempted rape" (Patterson). The innumerable claims of sexual assualt on white, usually very young, females was a common theme in these articles. They were intended to provoke not only a feeling of pity, but action. In the cases of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, they were accused of both the shooting and murder of a white man, Claude Deeter, and the rape of a young white woman, Mary Ball. These claims of black on white violence set the stage for the inevitable lynchings that were similar to those of other, national lynchings.
The justification for the lynching of Smith and Shipp was the murder of a white man and the rape of a white woman, these would be legitimate claims if a court had actually found the men guilty. Most national justifications for lynching african americans come from charges of sexual assualt and shooting. These claims insinuate that the citizens' actions were a crime of passion and not premeditated. However, I believe that the cause of these lynchings were about deeply-engrained ideals about sexuality. The white male supremacist ideal of segragating white woman and black men. Historian Forrest Wood articulately suggested that white males still possess the fear of sexually suppressed white women expressing their sexuality fully, "For generations, southern white men had successfully dehumanized their women in order to perpetuate their own priviledged position and rationalize their own sexual accesses. If white women took it upon themselves to express their sexuality fully, the presence of high-powered animalistic Negroes would allow them to destroy completely the socio-sexual culture that had evolved over the decades. The Civil War abolished slavery, it did not abolish the southern way of life." After the end of the Civil War, Euro-American men had no means by controlling Afro-American men. In order to retain their socio-sexual culture, Euro-American men responded to the emancipation of slaves through racial violence and lynching. "So ingrained and completely institutionalized was the culture of honor and violence in the Old South that it persists right down to the present." (Patterson)