On Thursday, Sept. 17, I wrote an article in Chattanoogan.com titled “When Justice Prevailed” wherein I portrayed the heroic efforts of two white Hamilton County deputies - jailer Holt and deputy Frank Selcer under Sheriff John Skillern. They prevented the lynching of a black man, Frank Weims, in May 1882, for an attempted sexual assault of a white woman under the laws that provided hanging of a black man for having consensual sex with a white woman. Weims was threatened to be hung under the “lynch law” as described by the facts stated in my September 17 article. (Available under “All Happenings Articles.”)
The same law did not provide a criminal punishment for a white man having sex with a black woman and even then, she was presumed to have consented although not necessary.
The purpose of this follow up story is that when I researched the facts of the Weims case further for the purpose of perhaps writing a favorable article about some person that may have also acted honorably in our community I came up with some startling facts.
Yes, Weims was allowed to plead guilty after a trial, receive a sentence of 25 years and escape the lynch mob.
However, an excerpt from Digital History I.D.
3614 based on the novel by one of the most outspoken female African American critics of lynching, Author Ida B. Wells, written in 1892, “Southern Horrors. Lynch Law in All Its Phases” adds significant facts to the original article and needs to be presented to the reading public.
Yes, Weims got a trial after the alleged victim’s “public men” demanded that he receive one and “guarded him while the trial was in progress.”
Unfortunately, the trial only lasted 10 minutes and Weims then chose to plead guilty and accept the 21-year sentence (my original article stated 25-year-old sentence).
It was stated that going to a full trial would “invite the certain death of which awaited him outside that cordon of police if he had told the truth and shown the letters he had from the white woman in the case. Whether the letters revealed a consensual relationship or the alleged victim denied that a crime had taken place was not explained.
Which version is true is like today watching a story on a liberal news channel and then switching to a conservative news channel? The truth in reporting any events is often lost in its airing to the public.
This is not the type of historical story that I feel comfortable about reporting with the Sept. 24 article or Sept. 17 article without telling both sides.
Based on Ida B. Wells’ anti-lynching position in her Memphis Newspaper, “The Free Speech” it was destroyed by a mob and the event in great part was published in an edition of the paper, “New York Age” on June 25, 1892.
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(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at email@example.com)