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*On this date in 1874, Julia Hayden was murdered. She was a seventeen-year-old Black girl set to beginning her career as a teacher of young Black children in Tennessee.
August was back-to-school time for the kids. It was also a time when terrorist groups like the White League and Ku Klux Klan would burn schools, whip children on their way to class, and kill teachers. On August 22, 1874 two white men came to the house Julia Hayden was staying at and killed her. The White League, the latest manifestation of the Redeemer spirit, was a growing force in Tennessee that summer and many Blacks saw her killing as part of the group’s war against Black literacy.
Many white journalists disagreed, saying that the killers had merely wanted to rape the teenager, as had been their right during slave times, and that when she had resisted, they killed her. They argued that this slaughter of a teacher, who had after all been born a slave, had nothing to do with race at all. It was only about a couple of white men wanting to have their pleasure with a Black girl. Frederick Douglass saw her murder as the latest manifestation of terror attacks against Black education.