Earlier this year, ISIS burned to death Jordan fighter pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh, an act decried as barbaric by much of the world when seen online. But for almost a century in America, such heinous torchings were meted out against Blacks by whites — occasions that were not only immoral and criminal, but they were events often celebrated by entire communities. They were known as “spectacular lynchings,” ceremonial torture, murder and burning alive of Black Americans by whites.
On May 15, 1916, Jesse Washington was mutilated and burned to death on the City Hall grounds in Waco, Texas. He was arrested a week earlier for the rape and murder of the wife of a white farmer, although there were no witnesses or evidence against him. His trial lasted less than a day, and the jury deliberated for four minutes, according to billmoyer.com. Before the death penalty could be executed by the state, a mob of whites stormed the courtroom, wrapped a chain around his neck and dragged him out to an open area by City Hall, where they pinned him to the ground and cut off his testicles. A bonfire was quickly built and lit. For two hours, Washington — alive — was raised and lowered over the flames. Again and again and again. City officials and police stood by, approvingly. According to some estimates, the crowd grew to as many as 15,000. There were taunts, cheers and laughter. Reporters described hearing “shouts of delight.” When the flames died away, Washington’s body was torn apart, and the pieces were sold as souvenirs.