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Jesse Washington historical marker in the works on the heels of history

Anti-lynching bill signed
Posted at 8:57 PM, Apr 01, 2022

This week president Joe Biden signed the historic Emmit Till Anti-Lynching Act.

The legislation has failed multiple times throughout the past century. The bill now acknowledges lynching as a federal hate crime and is punishable for up to 30 years in prison.

Dr. Lynn Greenwood Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Texas A&M Central Texas said, "Hate crime legislation, in general, has been relatively easy to pass but because we don't really think of lynching as a modern type of crime.

I think that's part of the reason it's been more difficult to pass anti-lynching laws because it's directed towards a very specific type of behavior versus just hate crimes in general."

Here at home one organization has been working to acknowledge one of Waco's darkest moments.

In 1916, Jesse Washington was accused of raping and killing a white woman, Lucy Fryer, in Robinson. She was the wife of a farmer he worked for.

Fryer was found bludgeoned to death inside her home.

Washington was arrested and put on trial. Harrison said the all-white jury deliberated for just four minutes before finding Washington guilty. Quickly after the verdict, an angry mob rushed into the courthouse, seized the man, and pushed him in front of city hall.

Nearly 15,000 people gathered around, watching and cheering as the mob burned Washington alive. They, then, dragged him through the streets of Waco and black neighborhoods.

Washington's story has resonated with many in the Waco community including Jo Welter the Chair of the Board of Directors with Community Race Relations Coalition Waco.

Welter said, "We’re very much a heart-to-heart organization. We promote respect acceptance and inclusion for everyone in our community."

In alignment with their mission, Welter and several other community members have been working since 2016 to get a state historical plaque to acknowledge the lynching of Washington.

Greenwood said, "Traditionally, lynching is you know, sort of that illegal mob action people taking matters into their own hands and targeting people mainly on the basis of their race. The current bill is an anti-lynching bill and so it has a lot of history backing it up."

Welter said just a few weeks ago the plaque was finally on its way, but it was damaged in shipping. Now, they will have to wait once again. However, the is already a spot dedicated to the plaque.

"When we have the completed marker undamaged it will be installed at city hall," said Welter. "When we started this project the City of Waco gave us a place to put it right in front of city hall not too far from where Jesse was burned and tortured."