Jesse Washington Mutilated Castrated Burned Alive

Jesse Washington Mutilated Castrated Burned Alive

Jesse Washington Mutilated Castrated Burned Alive

Lucy  Fryer

Jesse Washington Mutilated Castrated Burned Alive

On May 8, 1916 someone in Robinson, Texas murdered Lucy Fryer while she was alone at her house. She and her husband George were English immigrants and operated a farm. George continued to live in Robinson, unmarried, for the rest of his life. He died in 1938.

Jesse Washington

An investigation determined that Jesse Washington, a seventeen-year-old black man who had worked on the Fryers’ farm for five months, was responsible. Washington denied the charges at first, but eventually confessed and indicated where the murder weapon, a hammer, could be found.


On May 15, the jury took 10 minutes to reach a guilt verdict.


Fred Gildersleeve, a Waco-based professional photographer, arrived at city hall shortly before the lynching, possibly at the mayor’s request, and photographed the event. He later used some of the photos as postcards.

from Equal Justice Initiative site

On May 15, 1916, after an all-white jury convicted Jesse Washington of the murder of a white woman, he was taken from the courtroom and burned alive in front of a mob of 15,000. When he was accused of killing his employer’s wife, seventeen-year-old Jesse Washington’ greatest fear was being brutally lynched – a common fate for black people accused of wrongdoing at that time, whether guilty or not. After he was promised protection against mob violence, Jesse, who suffered from intellectual disabilities, according to some reports, signed a statement confessing to the murder.

That morning, Washington was taken to court, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death in a matter of moments.


Shortly before noon, spectators snatched him from the courtroom and dragged him outside, the “promise of protection” quickly forgotten. The crowd that gathered to watch and/or participate in the brutal lynching grew to 15,000. Jesse Washington was chained to a car while members of the mob ripped off his clothes, cut off his ear, and castrated him.

The angry mob dragged his body from the courthouse to City Hall and a fire was prepared while several assailants repeatedly stabbed him. When they tied Jesse Washington to the tree underneath the mayor’s window, the lynchers cut off his fingers to prevent him from trying to escape, then repeatedly lowered his lifeless body into the fire. At one point, a participant took a portion of Washington’s torso and dragged it through the streets of Waco.

Jesse Washington Mutilated Castrated Burned Alive

Elizabeth Freeman

Following news reports of the lynching, the NAACP hired a special investigator, Elizabeth Freeman. She was able to learn the names of the five mob leaders and also gathered evidence that local law enforcement had done nothing to prevent the lynching. Nevertheless, no one was ever prosecuted for their participation in the lynching of Jesse Washington. (see in May – June 1916)

The Crisis

WEB DuBois helped found The Crisis in 1910 as the official magazine of the NAACP.  In the June 1916 edition of The Crisis published Lelia Amos Pendleton’s “An Apostrophe to the Lynched.”

An Apostrophe to the Lynched

by Lelia Amos Pendleton 

Jesse Washington Mutilated Castrated Burned Alive

HANG there, O my murdered brothers, sons of Ethiopia, our common Mother: Hang there, with faces upturned, mutely calling down vengeance from the Most High God!

Call down vengeance upon this barbarous nation; a nation of hypocrites, timeservers and gold-worshippers; a nation of ranting, ramping, stamping creatures who call themselves evangelists and who practice the evangel of restriction and proscription; a nation of wolves who hunt in packs and who skulk away if caught alone; a nation always ready to “avenge” itself against the weak, but with mouth filled with ready excuses for not attacking the strong.

Hang there until their eyes are unsealed and they behold themselves as they are and as they appear “to an amazed world! Hang there until their ears are opened to the ominous sounds of warning! Hang there until their foresworn souls perceive the true meaning of Liberty and Justice, until they catch a glimmer of the meaning of Christianity!

Martyrs to lawlessness, bigotry prejudice, if you by dying can accomplish some of these things, Death will have been swallowed up in Victory. 

Jesse Washington Mutilated Castrated Burned Alive
The First Waco Horror

In 2005 Patricia Bernstein published  The First Waco Horror. Her first sentence reads, “The setting for the Waco Horror was no dusty little dump of a town, no Tumbleweed Junction spring up at an isolated crossroads.” From there she continues to try to place one of the most horrendous events in American criminal history in context. She does not excuse the action.

Web resources:

Jesse Washington Mutilated Castrated Burned Alive

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