The Waco Horror: Remembering the lynching of Jesse Washington

Posted: 10:06 PM, May 15, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-19 19:01:13Z

A hundred and two years ago, a mob dragged a black teenager out of the McLennan County Courthouse and lynched him on what is now the grounds of Waco City Hall.

Family members and a documentary team held a brief ceremony to remember the murder and further the conversation of race in America.

From a tree, that looks like many others at Waco City Hall, a 17-year-old boy was lynched on May 15, 1916.

"For a long while, the city of Waco wouldn't even acknowledge things like this but it is being acknowledged now," said Nona El-Amin.

El-Amin is talking about her distant relative, through marriage, Jesse Washington.

Historians said a mob doused the Black teen with coal oil and hanged him over a pile of burning wooden crates after an all-white jury found him guilty of murdering his white employer. Adding to the horror of the day that Washington was lynched, historians said the crowd of 15,000 people carved up his charred body and took the pieces home as souvenirs.

It's a moment, El-Amin said, she only heard about once from her grandmother.

"She decided to tell us about it and I could tell it hurt her so much to talk about it and she kind of let us know she was only going to tell us about this one time," El-Amin said.

Jesse Washington's story, and others like it, have gotten the attention of many over the years.

That's why Rhonda Haynes, with Lous Production, is including it in her documentary "Let the Eagle Scream: An American Lynching Tree."

"We need to know this history."

Haynes argues that lynching still happens today, just in a different way.

"Just like what happened with Trayvon Martin, what happened to him, the modern-day vigilante came and killed him just like with Jesse Washington," Haynes said.

So with a candle and a bouquet, everyone who went to the ceremony looked back on the horrors of the past and hoped for a future without them.

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