One household’s picture album contains pictures of a trip, a marriage anniversary and the lynching of a Black man in Texas

In this photo from Aug. 20, 1922, Gene Kemp and Mary 'Teddie' Kemp, at left, are seen with two friends.  Jeffrey L Littlejohn

On this picture from Aug. 20, 1922, Gene Kemp and Mary ‘Teddie’ Kemp, at left, are seen with two mates. Jeffrey L Littlejohn

As a historian and director of the Lynching in Texas undertaking, which has documented greater than 600 racial terror lynchings, I obtain common emails from journalists, students and activists who wish to focus on the historical past of racial violence.

My conversations with reporters and historians didn’t put together me for one of many emails I obtained final winter. The author, a Chicago memorabilia vendor, supplied to mail me a photograph album that included an image from a Texas lynching.

I responded that I’d admire the chance to overview the album and to assist determine the sufferer.

A couple of week later, I opened the envelope and located 5 photographs, a small cartoon and a key labeled “Teddie’s footage.”

Every of the images was numbered.

The primary was a 6-by-5-inch picture of what seemed to be burning wooden. It proved troublesome to decipher. However the description clarified issues.

In this May 27, 1922 photograph, the charred remains of Jesse Thomas are barely visible.  Jeff Littlejohn

On this Could 27, 1922 {photograph}, the charred stays of Jesse Thomas are barely seen. Jeff Littlejohn

It learn: “Burning of negro in entrance of outdated Metropolis Corridor, Waco, Texas.”

Revealing historical past classes

I instantly got down to determine the sufferer and to find the story behind “Teddie’s footage.”

As I did so, I spotted that what I used to be doing can be controversial, if not unlawful, I had been a Ok-12 trainer in Texas.

Actually, I used to be participating within the very form of historic evaluation that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican legislators in Texas wish to ban from public faculties.

In 2021, for instance, Texas Republicans enacted Senate Invoice 3 to ban Ok-12 educators from instructing that “slavery and racism are something aside from deviations from … the genuine founding ideas of the US, which embrace liberty and equality.”

In different phrases, this official state interpretation holds that slavery, racism and racism’s lethal manifestation, lynching, didn’t function systemic forces that formed Texas historical past however have been as a substitute aberrations with none elementary that means for Texans – and even past the state.

Scene of the burnings of Johnny Cornish, Mose Jones and Snap Curry in Kirvin, Texas, on Could 6, 1922. <a href=Jeff Littlejohn” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQzMw–/”/>
Scene of the burnings of Johnny Cornish, Mose Jones and Snap Curry in Kirvin, Texas, on Could 6, 1922. Jeff Littlejohn

Teddie’s picture album, which additionally included footage of Teddie and her husband doing regular, on a regular basis issues like driving donkeys and going to marriage ceremony anniversary dinners, offered a direct problem to this interpretation.

Racist mob terror

Certainly, my analysis quickly revealed that the images belonged to Mary “Teddie” Kemp, a white lady from Pennsylvania who moved together with her husband, Gene Kemp, to Waco, Texas, in 1922.

This date proved essential, as a result of it meant that the sufferer in Teddie’s picture album couldn’t be JesseWashingtonthe 17-year-old mentally handicapped younger man who was lynched within the notorious “Waco horror” of 1916.

in that lynching, historian Patricia Bernstein writes, Washington was “overwhelmed, stabbed, mutilated, hanged and burned to loss of life on the Waco city sq., earlier than an viewers of 10-15,000 screaming, cheering spectators.”

Actually, the dates on the opposite photographs in Teddie’s album made it seemingly that this image confirmed the burning of Jesse Thomasa 23-year-old Black man.

Thomas was wrongly accused of murdering W. Harrell Bolton and assaulting his feminine companion, Margaret Hays, close to Waco on Could 25, 1922.

When Hays recognized Thomas as her seemingly assailant, a relative named Sam Harris shot and killed Thomas.

A white mob then dragged his physique to Metropolis Corridor and burned it earlier than a crowd of a number of thousand individuals.

White supremacy in Texas

The identification of Jesse Thomas because the sufferer in Teddie’s picture album solely led to extra questions.

Why would an informed white lady from Pennsylvania embrace an image of a Black lynching sufferer in a private picture album?

In this Sept. 26, 1921, photograph, Mary 'Teddie' Kemp and her husband, Gene, are riding on donkeys at Seven Falls and South Cheyenne Canyon, Colo.  Jeffrey Littlejohn

On this Sept. 26, 1921, {photograph}, Mary ‘Teddie’ Kemp and her husband, Gene, are driving on donkeys at Seven Falls and South Cheyenne Canyon, Colo. Jeffrey Littlejohn

Why would she take her photographs out of chronological sequence and place the lynching image as the primary picture within the album?

The solutions to those questions reveal an ideal deal about Texas simply 100 years in the past.

For my part, the album exposes the precedence that Anglo Texans – even new arrivals to the state – positioned on white supremacy and Black subjugation.

Teddie seemingly pasted the image of Jesse Thomas’ burning physique originally of her album as a result of it featured an electrifying, adrenaline-charged occasion that viscerally illustrated the character of her new Texas residence.

An image of Mary Kemp's handwritten descriptions of her photographs.  Jeff Littlejohn

A picture of Mary Kemp’s handwritten descriptions of her pictures. Jeff Littlejohn

Certainly, as historian William Carrigan has proven, white supremacy and racial violence served as core components of the state’s id.

Collectively, they established the written and unwritten guidelines governing the social order—who may vote, who may marry whom, who may attend occasions—and the final word punishment for transgressing the foundations.

Lynchings, just like the one depicted in Teddie’s picture album, current a direct problem to the whitewashed view of Texas historical past that Abbott and his Republican colleagues want.

Unspeakable violence

Lynchings occurred usually in Texas – with 16 in 1922 alone – and served as probably the most excessive and violent embodiment of white supremacy within the state in the course of the Jim Crow interval.

When Black and Hispanic Texans dared to problem white authority or to assert for themselves the rights of US residents, they confronted violence on a scale not often seen in different elements of the nation.

On this picture of a Could 6, 1922, newspaper, a photograph caption reads 'The place three Negroes have been burned at stake' in Kirvin, Texas.  <a href=WEB Du Bois Papers” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQwOA–/″/>
On this picture of a Could 6, 1922, newspaper, a photograph caption reads ‘The place three Negroes have been burned at stake’ in Kirvin, Texas. WEB Du Bois Papers

In Could 1922, for instance, White Texans carried out a minimum of 10 lynchings in a single monthextra lynchings than in every other state however Georgia for the complete yr.

Eight of the Texas victims killed in 1922 have been burned on the stake in a type of torture that most individuals at this time affiliate with the so-called Darkish Ages.

However these horrific acts occurred in fashionable Texas, only a few generations in the past. And white individuals caught the occasions on movie and put the photographs in their very own household albums.

100 years in the past, the lynching of Black women and men in Texas was not an aberration. It proved the rule. You might say white supremacist rule.

This text is republished from The Dialog, a nonprofit information web site devoted to sharing concepts from educational consultants. The dialog has quite a lot of Fascinating free newsletters.

It was written by: Jeffrey L Littlejohn, Sam Houston State College.

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Jeffrey L. Littlejohn doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.

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