The Lynching of Jesse Washington


From NPR:

On Monday, a small interracial organization will meet on the steps of the Waco Texas courthouse to read a resolution condemning and apologizing for the lynching of 17-year-old Jesse Washington.

Washington’s lynching 90 years ago was so astonishingly brutal that the incident became known nationally as the “Waco Horror.”

The Waco Interracial Coalition is forcing Waco to confront some of its painful history and there are many in this city of 200,000 who have no interest in apologizing for something that happened 90 years ago.

“It’s a very ugly part of history,” says Ray Meadows, a Waco county commissioner. “I regret that it happened, but as far as me coming out to apologize…I didn’t have anything to do with it.”

A Murder, Followed by a Lynching

Around sundown of May 8, 1916, Lucy Fryer, the wife of a well regarded cotton farmer, was found bludgeoned to death in the doorway of her seed house. Jesse Washington, who was illiterate and branded “feeble-minded”, confessed to the murder.

Soon after a jury found him guilty, a crowd of 2,000 men seized Washington, chained him, beat him and dragged him to the town square, where he was burned.

His fingers were amputated for souvenirs and his fingernails taken for keepsakes. Finally all that was left was a charred torso, but Washington’s body parts were put in a bag so they could be dragged through downtown.

(Thanks Anonymous)


  1. Sorry, but I gotta say it: Where’s Lucy’s Fryer’s day of rememberance? Lynching is heinous, but so is being beaten to death with a hammer.
    If they lynched Bin Laden and kept his fingernails as keepsakes I would want to vomit, but I certainly wouldn’t celebrate the man.

  2. Lots of people get murdered with no day of rememberance. Not everyone gets beaten to death by an entire town.

    Where’s the evidence that he did it? Oh right, he was black in 1916 in TX, no evidence needed other than a “confession”.

  3. Seth, since you don’t know that he didn’t do it, why manipulate the issue, towards your bias, that he didn’t?

    The issue is, apparently, the bloodlust of some small texas town. The race card is a side issue.

    The fact is, the poor get the sharp end of the stick in all societies. Black or white or whatever.

  4. I read through the article and it seemed like the NAACP even thought he “probably” did it.
    I’m not excusing it, I’m just saying you coulda picked a better example for a day of rememberance.

  5. Whether Washington probably, definitely did, or did not kill Fryer is the wrong question to be asking. “Feeble-minded” has been a common label for any of a host of mental illnesses and insanity. If he did kill Fryer, his condition likely prevented him from having the intent to do so. And regardless of whether he killed her, his condition almost assuredly prevented him from understanding the ramifications of his confession.

    The Supreme Court’s getting ready to issue an opinion on this issue in Cark v. Arizona sometime in the coming weeks.

  6. It`s been the talk of the town here in Waco. The local Rush Limbaugh wannabe (AM 1230) has been having fun with it in his morning talk show. You can check out the local stories and letters to the editor at

    The interest in apologizing goes along racial lines. Next I guess we`ll have to apologize to O.J. Simpson. I`m trying to get an apology from Texans for what they did to General Santa Anna.

  7. This is not OJ Simpson. And this is not about one lynching. The Washington lynching has come to symbolize all lynchings–a violent tool of white supremacy and maintain racial order. Waco had several. The South had over 4000 lynchings between 1890 and 1941. All the victims were not black or poor, but most were, at least 85%. The Washington lynching was particularly bad because of the method and number of people in attendance. Recognizing this heinous act of which 15,000 people watched and cheered isn’t to make peace with Washington or his family–they immediately moved. The lynching was a message to the black community of Waco. They remember. They just want whites to remember too–to recognize the crap blacks had to go through in Waco, as well as the rest of the country, for a hundred years after the Civil War.

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