Jesse Washington: A Child Who Was Murdered By A City
In 1916, an angry White mob killed Jesse Washington. He was a 17-year old child whose death was a public event where men, women, and children watched his torture. It was lynching that would change America and it came at the expense of a child’s life.
The Murder of Jesse
The following is a summary of Jesse’s death according to Elisabeth Freeman’s reports, in the article titled The Waco Horror* in the NAACP’s The Crisis Magazine. Freeman went to Waco and interviewed local authorities, and witnesses to the murder, contributing to an article that horrified the people of the United States. The story describes in unforgiving detail the final days, hours, and moments of Jesse’s life. According to The Waco Horror, this is what we know:
Jesse was accused of killing and raping his employer, a White woman named Lucy Fryer. After being arrested, Jesse confessed to the crime and was quickly put on trial for his alleged crimes. The trial was short and the verdict from the all-white male jury was delivered in minutes*: guilty, sentenced to death.
That’s when the mob attacked. Jesse was dragged from the courthouse out into the street, marched about until the mob had completed the execution site: a tree where they had built a fire pit. According to Freeman, by the time he arrived at the tree, Jesse’s genitals had been cut off* and he had been stabbed multiple times. The article also notes that to prevent him from grabbing the chain and fleeing the flames, his fingers were also cut off. The murders then lowered him onto the fire, burning him to death in as onlookers watched.
In a final act of violence against Jesse, his death was photographed; not for purposes of documenting criminal activity, but to capture a moment of excitement for the city of Waco.
That was how Jesse Washington died: publicly humiliated, tortured, and in his final moments, his death was entertainment for a cruel crowd.