The following account is drawn from James Cameron's book, A Time
Thousands of Indianans carrying picks, bats, ax handles, crowbars,
torches, and firearms attacked the Grant County Courthouse, determined
to "get those goddamn Niggers." A barrage of rocks shattered the jailhouse
windows, sending dozens of frantic inmates in search of cover. A sixteen-year-old
boy, James Cameron, one of the three intended victims, paralyzed by fear
and incomprehension, recognized familiar faces in the crowd-schoolmates,
and customers whose lawns he had mowed and whose shoes he had polished-as
they tried to break down the jailhouse door with sledgehammers. Many police
officers milled outside with the crowd, joking. Inside, fifty guards with
guns waited downstairs.
The door was ripped from the wall, and a mob of fifty men beat Thomas
Shipp senseless and dragged him into the street. The waiting crowd "came
to life." It seemed to Cameron that "all of those ten to fifteen thousand
people were trying to hit him all at once." The dead Shipp was dragged
with a rope up to the window bars of the second victim, Abram Smith. For
twenty minutes, citizens pushed and shoved for a closer look at the "dead
nigger." By the time Abe Smith was hauled out he was equally mutilated.
" Those who were not close enough to hit him threw rocks and bricks. Somebody
rammed a crowbar through his chest several times in great satisfaction."
Smith was dead by the time the mob dragged him "like a horse" to the courthouse
square and hung him from a tree. The lynchers posed for photos under the
limb that held the bodies of the two dead men.
Then the mob headed back for James Cameron and "mauled him all the way
to the courthouse square," shoving and kicking him to the tree, where
the lynchers put a hanging rope around his neck. Cameron credited an unidentified
woman's voice with silencing the mob (Cameron, a devout Roman Catholic,
believes that it was the voice of the Virgin Mary) and opening a path
for his retreat to the county jail and, ultimately, for saving his life.
Mr. Cameron has committed his life to retelling the horrors of his experience
and "the Black Holocaust" in his capacity as director and founder of the
museum with the same name in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Under magnification,
one can see the girls in this photo clutching ragged swatches of dark
After souvenir hunters divvied up the bloodied pants of Abram Smith, his
naked lower body was clothed in a Klansman's robe-not unlike the loincloth
in traditional depictions of Christ on the cross. Lawrence Beitler, a
studio photographer, took this photo. For ten days and nights he printed
thousands of copies, which sold for fifty cents apiece.