“Turn them damn niggers over to us! We know how to treat them! We’re going to hang every damn one of them!”.
It was a miracle day for James Cameron, one of those, who would have been lynched on a fateful night in August 1930. Cameron was a 16-year-old shoeshine boy in Marion, Indiana, when August 6, 1930, incident changed his life forever.
On that sad night, Cameron accepted a ride home in a 1926 Ford Roadster from his 18-year-old classmate, Tom Shipp, in the company of another teen, 19-year-old Abram Smith. By night Shipp and Smith were dead — beaten and killed by an angry mob but wonderfully Cameron managed to escape.
The three teenagers, all of whom were Black, drove along the river. At a point of their drive, they encountered Claude Deeter, and an 18-year-old White woman named Mary Ball. Cameron said one of the other teenagers ordered him to rob the couple at gunpoint. Cameron refused to comply and immediately opted out of their company.
As Cameron walked some distance away, he heard gunshots and never bothered to find out what had happened. The three teens were arrested late that night and taken to the county jail, where they were held throughout the next day. By dusk, a rowdy crowd had gathered outside the jail and demanded the release of the trio so that they could lynch them.
As the crowd became uncontrollable, they beat down the jail doors, pulled the three youths from their cells, brutally battered them, and dragged them to a tree on the courthouse square. At the last minute, the mob spared Cameron, the youngest and most boyish of the trio. Smith and Shipp died, lynch ropes around their necks, their bodies hanging.
It will forever remain a day of sorrow in the hearts of the members of the Black community. Still, nowadays we often proudly say that the inhumane practice of lynching is gone. Can we be sure? Especially with regard to such incidents as the Piedmont Park hanging and Sandra Bland’s death.
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