26 November 2017

Walter Allen Met Death at the Hands of a Mob to Him Unknown

According to MonroeWorkToday, the lynching of Walter Allen is referenced in A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930 and Fitzhugh Brundage's Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930.

Mr. Fitzhugh, specifically, notes:

Precisely why alleged rapes were such a conspicuous cause of lynchings in the Upper Piedmont [a portion of the northern half of the state of Georgia] is hard to learn. The location of many of the lynchings for sexual offenses, however, is suggestive. Nearly half occurred either along the fringes or within the environs of Atlanta and Rome...

The lynchings on the periphery of Atlanta and Rome probably were testimony to the fears of whites that the day-to-day controls on black life in the countryside were losing their effectiveness and the conviction that symbolic violence was needed to restore black deference and fear.

MaconTelegraph1902-04-02Macon Telegraph (Georgia)
Wednesday, 2 April 1902 -- pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]


Four Thousand Batter Down Jail Doors, Seize the Negro Assailant of a White Girl, and Hang Him Under Electric Lights.

ROME, Ga., April 1. – Walter Allen, a negro charged with attempting to criminally assault Miss Blossom Adamson, a 15-year-old girl, in this city yesterday afternoon, was taken from jail tonight by 4,000 people, who battered the prison doors down and hanged him to an electric light pole in the principal portion of the city.  A volley was fired afterward and fully a thousand bullets entered the negro's body.

Miss Adamson was on her way to a dressmaker's late yesterday afternoon, when she was met by Allen, who told her that a dressmaker at a designated residence was waiting to see her.  The young girl went to the house mentioned by the negro, who followed her into the house, which Miss Adamson found was vacant.

A lady on a nearby porch, attracted by the noise of the struggle, succeeded in frightening Allen away, and he escaped.  Late this afternoon he was captured and brought to this city and placed in jail.

As soon as the news of his capture was learned a mob formed tonight and marched to the jail, demanding the negro.  The sheriff refused to deliver the keys and pleaded that the law should be allowed to take its course.  Upon the sheriff's refusal of the keys, the jail door was forced open with sledge hammers, and the steel cage of Allen's cell broken in.  The negro was carried a square and a half away and allowed to make a statement.  Allen declared that he was innocent and prayed that the guilty party would be found.

All the men who took part in the hanging were unmasked.

Miss Adamson belongs to one of the most prominent families in Rome.

Octavia Blossom Adamson was the daughter of Nathaniel Edward Adamson (1850-1919) and Octavia Shropshire (1854-1909).

I guess it's safe to say no one in the mob feared repercussions for the unlawful killing.  Why should they? The coroner wasn't even interested until the following mid-morning…

Macon Telegraph (Georgia)
Thursday, 3 April 1902 -- pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]


Coroner's Verdict Accuses No One.  Hung All Night.

ROME, Ga., April 2. – The body of Walter Allen, the negro who was lynched here last night for an alleged assault on Miss Adamson, was not taken in charge by the coroner until 9 o'clock this morning.  Many persons viewed the body dangling at the top of an electric light pole, forty feet from the ground, where it was pulled early last night by the mob of four thousand.

The coroner rendered a verdict that the negro had met death at the hands of a mob to him unknown.  The local company of militia was called out by the mayor last night, but too late to prevent the lynching.

From NY Public LibraryA simple search on Google will give you the statistics. The Tuskegee Institute kept track of lynchings in America from 1882 - 1968. There were 581 in Mississippi, 531 in Georgia, 493 in Texas, 391 in Louisiana, 347 in Alabama, and so on. Total from all states: 4,743. That's more than one lynching and victim a week.

I feel a little like I should try to explain why I would give the horrible acts – those committed by the criminal, as well as those committed on the criminal – voice on this blog. There are no (at least to my knowledge) statistics showing the accuracy of the lynchers. How many times was an innocent person hung, riddled with bullets, and mutilated in the name of "justice?" I mean, we probably agree there are innocent people sitting in jail right now – with supposed checks and balances in place. Imagine when there were none. Shouldn't those innocent people be remembered?

Now, make no mistake, sometimes the lynching party "punished" the right person. As in, sometimes the true perpetrator was indeed apprehended – and then disposed of, often in a barbaric fashion. Even if you take the literal "eye for an eye" death penalty approach, I would not be surprised if that would have been an applicable punishment in only an infinitesimal number of cases. People were lynched for stealing, people were lynched for "insubordination," people were lynched for literally being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And let us not be cowards and leave out the racism debacle that lingers to this day. So another reason for giving voice to these past atrocities is in the same vein of "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

As a family historian, I am saddened to think (1) these revolting deeds took place, and (2) while statistics are easy to find, the names and stories of the individual victims are much harder to locate. A list of lynching victims will unfortunately never be complete. I hope that in a small way, posts such as these will serve as a memorial to those who were victims of Judge Lynch and his frightful law.

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