Two black men were hanged from a telephone pole in

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Two black men were hanged from a telephone pole in Lewisburg, West Virginia. And two in Hempstead, Texas, where one man was dragged out of the courtroom by a mob and another was dragged out of jail. A black man was hanged from a telephone pole in Belleville, Illinois, where a fire was set at the base of the pole and the man was cut 85
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down half-alive, covered in coal oil, and burned. While his body was burning, the mob beat it with clubs and nearly cut it to pieces. Lynching, the first scholar of the subject determined, is an American invention. Lynching from bridges, from arches, from trees standing alone in fields, from trees in front of the county courthouse, from trees used as public billboards, from trees barely able to support the weight of a man, from telephone poles, from street lamps, and from poles erected for that purpose. From the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century black men were lynched for crimes real and imagined, for "disputing with a white man," for "unpopularity," for "asking a white woman in marriage," for "peeping in a window." The children's game of "telephone" depends on the fact that a message passed quietly from one ear to another to another will get distorted at some point along the line. In Pine Bluff, Arkansas a black man charged with kicking a white girl was hanged from a telephone pole. In Long View, Texas a black man accused of attacking a white woman was hanged from a telephone pole. In Greenville, Mississippi a black man accused of attacking a white telephone operator was hanged from a telephone pole. "The negro only asked time to pray." In Purcell, Oklahoma a black man accused of attacking a white woman was tied to a tele phone pole and burned. "Men and women in automobiles stood up to watch him die." The poles, of course, were not to blame. It was only coincidence that they became convenient as gallows, because they were tall and straight, with a crossbar, and because they stood in public places. And it was only coincidence that the telephone pole so closely resembled a crucifix. Early telephone calls were full of noise. "Such a jangle of meaning less noises had never been heard by human ears," Herbert Casson wrote in his 1910 History of the Telephone. "There were the rustling of leaves, the croaking of frogs, the hissing of steam, the flapping of 86
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birds' wings .... There were spluttering and bubbling, jerking and rasping, whistling and screaming." In Shreveport, a black man charged with attacking a white girl was hanged from a telephone pole. "A knife was left sticking in the body." In Cumming, Georgia a black man accused of assaulting a white girl was shot repeatedly then hanged from a telephone pole. In Waco, Texas a black man convicted of killing a white woman was taken from the courtroom by a mob and burned, then his charred body was hung from a telephone pole.
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  • Fall '13
  • White people, Twisted pair, Bell Telephone

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