I was going through a scrapbook full of my feature newspaper articles of long ago, my letters to editors, and other commentaries, and found this letter tucked in the scrapbook. It is a response to my long letter to the editor in the News-Record back in 1966, when I wrote at length against the violence of mob actions. I’ve become a bit more radical since those days, but here below is a letter from a woman here in Greensboro agreeing with my premise and telling a horrifying story of something that happened when she was a child. I will quote the letter but not provide her name in order to protect her privacy, or if she is no longer living, the privacy of her family.
The letter: (written in the vernacular of her day and of the 60’s)
I just read your letter in Public Pulse, and you are so right, there is nothing on, under or over the face of the earth like the sound and sight of a mob in action. I know, because I lived through 2 days of fear and horror when I was a girl of 17, in Lincoln Co. Ga. A drunken negro killed a deputy sheriff (white) at a church near my home, at Lincolnton, Ga. The mob of about 300 men, and bloodhounds chased him right across our pasture. We had a large plantation, worked mostly by negro tenants, sharecroppers, good people whom we loved and respected and protected. But we couldn’t protect them against that vengeance mad, kill crazy mob. One of our colored men was suspected of having given him some food, and when he couldn’t tell them where the killer went, he was beaten almost to death, and when he attempted to run, they shot him. 300 guns can make an awful mess of a human body. I will never forget the pitiful faces of his wife and children, and the angry tears of my father, as we helped her pick up what was left of him, for burial. Later, the mob picked up another negro, who had been forced at pistol point, by the killer, to drive him 12 miles to a swamp in Wilkes Co. He was also beaten to a pulp. Late that night they caught the killer and brought him back to Lincolnton, again right thru our yard. By then, there wasn’t a human being in that mob. They were beasts who had lost every spark of decency and reason. The law tried to rescue him, but all appeals failed. It was worth one’s life to even get near them. They took the killer and the negro who had driven him to Wilkes Co. to Lincolnton, where they drove an old automobile bumper in to the ground for a stake, tied them to it with wire, piled wood and old tires around them, poured 5 gallons of gas over them and burned them. I shut myself in to my room, with the windows down, but I’ve never forgotten the screams, and the stench of burning human flesh, and neither will the men who were in that mob. When it was over and sanity had returned, just beginning to realize what they had done, a few weeks later, 3 of the men committed suicide. Some of their wives left them, refusing to live with a man who could so easily turn into a beast. The memory of those 2 days and nights will never fade. It has governed my whole life, in my attitude toward any sort of defenseless human, colored or white or even animals who dare not bite when kicked. I wish every one who thinks differently, could see just one mob in action, and feel the aftermath. Then more people would feel as you, and I do.
End of letter.
I have never been able to forget what she wrote, and it has become one of my own guides to relating to others, and also, as she notes here, to animals.