by E.R. Bills / May 15th, 2016
One hundred years ago this week, Jesse Washington, an eighteen-year-old African American man, was burned at the stake in Waco, Texas.
On May 8, 1916 a 53-year-old white woman named Lucy Fryar was bludgeoned to death outside her home, seven miles south of the city. The chief and only suspect was Washington, an illiterate farm hand who worked for Lucy and her husband George.
Reported to have anger issues and mental disabilities, Washington allegedly left his cotton plow to get more seed from Mrs. Fryar. As she was measuring cotton seed out, she reportedly scolded him for his harsh treatment of the plow mules and Washington took offense, striking her in the head with a blacksmith’s hammer. He then allegedly raped and killed her.
Afterwards, he apparently resumed his work in the Fryar cotton field and then returned home to the cabin he shared with his parents. When the body of Mrs. Fryar was discovered, authorities immediately suspected Washington and found him whittling a stick in his parents’ back yard.
McLennan County authorities arrested Washington and transported him to the county jail, but transferred him shortly thereafter. Considering the nature of the crime and the ethnicity of the chief suspect, they knew a lynching party would appear, so they conveyed Washington to Dallas.
On May 9, McLennan County Sheriff Sam S. Fleming and County Attorney John B. McNamara announced that Washington (who was still in Dallas County) had…