Sunday, April 24, 2005

I know I'm harping on the subject, but it has occurred to me that I have posted many criticisms of the United States on this blog. Here's one from Lincoln's birthday, Feb. 12, 2004:

An important branch of our family--the Chappells, Colleys, Whitneys, Shannons--originates in the town of Paris, Texas, which was a hotbed of lynching; in fact, the burning of Henry Smith on January 31, 1893, at Paris, is possibly the single most notorious mob murder of all. Smith was a retarded black man accused of killing and raping a young girl. He escaped to Hope, Arkansas, Bill Clinton's hometown, just a hundred miles up the road, where a posse caught him. He was taken back to Paris by train, where a crowd of at least 10,000 turned out to see his death. It was well-planned; a scaffold was built so the crowd could see, and special trains were run to Paris from as far away as Dallas and Fort Smith, along with the posse's train, full of spectators from Texarkana and Clarksville. Here is a contemporary account. You probably don't want to see this picture.

Here is a list of black men lynched in Paris:

William Armor, John Ransom, John Walker, September 6, 1892
Unidentified man, September 19, 1892
Henry Smith, January 31, 1893
Jefferson Cole, August 26, 1895
George Carter, February 11, 1901
J. H. McClinton, December 25, 1901
Henry Monson, January 27, 1913
Irving Arthur, Herman Arthur, July 6, 1920

That's eleven men killed by lynch mobs in one small Southern town. In addition, during this period, there were three lynchings in neighboring Red River county and one in neighboring Delta county. Of course, I suppose that some of the people who participated in or witnessed these lynchings were ancestors of mine. Our folks were lower-middle class farmers; they owned their land but had no money or social status. These were precisely the people most likely to join lynch mobs. However, these are not the kind of family stories that your grandma passes on to you.

Anyway, I have no illusions about human nature.

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