Wednesday, May 7, 2014

C.H.J. Taylor-Lynchings

In November, 1893, Charles H.J. Taylor, Kansas journalist and president of the National Negro Democratic League, delivered a speech at a National Negro Convention in Cincinnati proposing that the federal government should hold the states responsible for lynchings occurring within their borders, and the states in turn should hold counties responsible[20]  by levying a payment by the county of 
$10,000 to the family of victims of lynching.[21]

Taylor’s speech was significant on two levels: first, it carried weight because he had recently been appointed by Grover Cleveland as ambassador to Bolivia, the first such appointment for an African American outside of Liberia and Haiti. Second, Taylor’s advocacy of a governmental response to lynching was an implicit rejection of the position taken by Bishop Henry Turner at the Convention that the best response to the growth of white racism in post-Reconstruction America was emigration to Africa: “I do not believe,” said Turner in his convention address, “that there is any manhood future in this country for the Negro, and that his future existence, to say nothing of his future happiness, will depend upon his nationalization.”[22] 

Turner’s position did not carry the day at the convention: no radical plan for emigration to Africa was adopted. Instead, the convention recommended establishment of a National Equal Rights Council, and appealed to Congress, governors and the American people for fair and equal justice, echoing Taylor’s appeal.

Lynching diminished in Kansas in coming years: in the decade of the 1890s, sixteen were reported; in the following decade, three,[23] of whom two were African American.[24]  In 1903, Kansas passed an anti-lynching law,[25] but bills to create federal anti-lynching laws were repeatedly defeated in the Senate by Southern Democrats. The first successful Federal prosecution of a lyncher came only in 1946[26] as the result of relentless pressure by the NAACP, heir to C.H.J. Taylor’s National Negro Democratic League, among other civil rights groups.

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