A radio documentary prepared by students in the history department at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, recently aired on a local FM station. The documentary, “Waco’s Unfinished Legacy: 100 Years After Jesse Washington,” examines the events surrounding the lynching of Jesse Washington in Waco on May 15, 1916.
Washington was a local African American farmhand who was accused of raping and killing his boss’ wife. Washington plead guilty to the crime and was immediately sentenced to death. Immediately after the verdict, he was dragged out of the courtroom and lynched in front of Waco City Hall.
The lynching was viewed by more than 10,000 spectators. Washington’s body was repeatedly raised and lowered over a bonfire for two hours. Parts of his body were cut off and sold for souvenirs. His charred torso was dragged through the streets.
Stephen Sloan, an associate professor of history and director of the Institute for Oral History at Baylor University, explains that “the events following Jesse Washington’s trial have cast a proverbial shadow over Waco for the last 100 years,. This three-part radio series looks back at how the lynching of Jesse Washington exposed injustice, shocked the nation and forever impacted race relations in the city. This brings needed insight to this case — an incident so shocking and difficult that it deeply challenges us as Wacoans.”