Noose Was Around His Neck, Yet He Survived This Famous Lynching

Mob set out to kill black teen James Cameron in 1930
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2016 11:21 AM CDT
Updated Jul 3, 2016 9:33 AM CDT

(Newser) – The jarring image from 1930 remains a seminal one in civil rights history—it shows a white crowd mingling in front of two black teenagers lynched in front of the jail in Marion, Indiana. At BuzzFeed, Syreeta McFadden explores a facet to the lynching that may surprise many who have come across the photo: The crowd began to lynch a third teenager that day by the name of James Cameron, but Cameron lived to tell the tale. In fact, he would dedicate the rest of his life—he died in 2006 at age 92—to educating Americans about racism, most notably by opening the American Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee and writing a memoir. Drawing on that book, A Time of Terror, and other sources, McFadden recounts his brush with death. It began when Cameron, then 16, and the two other teens—Thomas Shipp, 18, and Abram Smith, 19—tried to rob a white couple at a local lover's lane.

Cameron says he left mid-robbery, only to hear gunshots in the distance. The white male was killed, and police soon had the three black teens in jail. After the white woman in the incident accused the three of rape—an allegation she would later recant—a mob stormed the jail. The crowd beat and lynched first Shipp, then Smith, and then came for Cameron. The rope was around his neck when, as he recalled, a "feminine" and "sweet" voice spoke up. “Take this boy back. He had nothing to do with any raping or killing." Amazingly, the crowd did just that. Just who spoke up—if anyone—remains unclear to this day. Cameron would serve time for accessory to manslaughter, but he was freed at the age of 21. His museum is now shuttered, but a movement is afoot to open it again. Click for the full article. (Read more lynching stories.)

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