Sunday, July 13, 2014

Justice, Not Lynching, after Sodomy Charge

Another point on the
arc of the moral universe
In late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century newspapers, there's a depressing regularity to the stories of black men raping white boys. Look for "sodomy," and they keep coming up. I haven't found anything of particular interest in them, even though they are the stories that get a little fleshed out (most of the items simply name a person who has been charged or convicted of sodomy).

But The Appeal, of Saint Paul, Minnesota, which described itself as "A National Afro-American Newspaper" had an article in its July 13, 1901 edition that helps put these stories into context. Okay, we have these horrible stories of black men raping white boys (it's either black men or "hoboes"), but that doesn't mean that they're true.

Here's what The Appeal reported:
Last Monday in the Criminal Court presided over by Judge Hanecy, a police officer had secured the indictment of an Afro-American for sodomy—a little white boy seven years old being the victim. The officer told how he caught the prisoner and evidently by perjury made out a strong case against him. The boy and his mother was examined but their evidence was very flimsy. But when that Afro-American took the witness stand—he told such a straightforward story that at once convinced Judge Hanecy of his innocence, who ordered his immediate discharge. In the South, this man, though innocent, would have been at once lynched.
Shades of To Kill a Mockingbird , though instead of a white woman making a false accusation against a black man, it's a white boy. The false charges of rape of white women (which were also persistent) have made their way into the histories, but the claims of black men raping white boys seems to have been forgotten. I suspect that the stories I've been finding in which black men were accused of sodomizing white boys had evidence no more solid than in the claims of black men raping white women.

But the unnamed man in the Appeal article seems to have received some justice in 1901. History shows it was a rarity for black men at the beginning of the twentieth century.
You can follow my blog on Twitter (@impofthediverse) or on Facebook. If you like this post, share it with your friends. If you have a comment just for me, e-mail me at
This blog runs solely on ego! Follow this blog! Comment on this post! Let me know that you want to read more of it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...