Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2009, pp. 000-000
From the Civil War to the early twentieth century the growing population of Brazos County, Texas included about equal numbers of white and black southerners. That division contributed to tense political campaigns between Democrats and Republicans as well as acts of political and racial violence. Among new settlers came Bohemian, Irish, and Italian immigrants. Anglos did not immediately accept them as white because of cultural differences. The immigrants sought white status in several ways, including racial violence.
In 1896 a mob seized three African Americans from jail and hanged them. Two had been accused of assaulting a white girl. The case remained clouded, however, by the differing reactions of her parents and by political conflicts between Populists in the mob and the Democratic sheriff. The third black man had been accused of rape by an Italian woman and convicted, but had won retrial on appeal. Questions about a possible personal relationship, her fainting to establish white womanhood, and alibi witnesses left the circumstances and the woman's status unclear. The mob killed the accused because he was in jail with the other black men.