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Mon, 05.05.1919

The National Conference on Lynching Convenes

*On this date in 1919, the National Conference on Lynching took place in Carnegie Hall, New York City.

The goal of the two-day conference was to pressure Congress to pass the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. It was a project of the new NAACP, which released a report, Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889-1918. The Keynote speaker was Charles Evans Hughes, former governor of New York and Secretary of State, Supreme Court Justice, and failed presidential candidate in the 1916 presidential election. "Hughes told the crowd that black soldiers who demonstrated bravery, honor, and loyalty in Europe deserved equal protection under the law back home." 

He and other Republicans were not for racial equality but equal protection under the law. "His remark was directed, in part, at his political nemesis President Wilson," a Southerner and segregationist. Lengthy quotes from his speech appeared in The New York Times.  General John H. Sherburne, commander of the colored 167th Artillery Brigade of the 92nd Division, described the valor of the negro artillerymen under his command.  The only Black to address the crowd was James Weldon Johnson, Field Secretary of the NAACP. "

Johnson worked to make attending whites... so uncomfortable that they would press political leaders for a federal anti-lynching law." Other speakers were the suffragist Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, who portrayed women's suffrage as a means to attack lynching, and Emmet O'Neal, former Governor of Alabama, who spoke on a governor's responsibility to ensure that local law enforcement is enforcing the law.  The conference was immediately followed, the same day in Carnegie Hall, by a "mass meeting" of the Society for Ethical Culture.

The NAACP President and lynching conference organizer Moorfield Storey was the featured speaker.  The conference had only a limited impact and did not enjoy as much publicity as its organizers hoped it would. It did have a positive effect on Blacks; NAACP membership grew greatly. In January 1918, the NAACP had 9,200 members; by May 1919, it had more than 62,000.  The Bill never passed since a Southern filibuster blocked it. It was not until December 2018 that the Senate passed (unanimously) legislation prohibiting lynching, the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act. Still, the House of Representatives took no action, and the bill died. 

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Poetry Corner

Sitting here alone, in peace With my private sadness Bared of the acquirements Of the mind’s eye Vision reversed, upended, Seeing only the holdings Inside the walls of me, Feeling the roots that bind me, To this... PRIVATE SADNESS by Bob Kaufman.
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