lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith Indiana

Thomas Shipp, James Camron and Abram Smith were accused of the robbery and the murder of a white factory worker. In August an factory worker Claude Deeter was hanging out with his girlfriend Mary Bell, both were white, when a group of three men robbed and murder Deeter and allegedly raped Bell. How Shipp, Smith and Camron became the main suspects is unclear but the three suspects had been arrested the same night and charged with robbery, murder, and rape. On August 7, 1930 in Marion, Indiana a large crowd formed outside the jail ordering the deputies to let them in. When they were denied the angry white mob use sledgehammers to break into the jail. Once in the three suspects were pulled form their cells and beating, they were then dragged to a tree on the courthouse square. Camron at the time only 16-years-old the youngest and most boyish of the trio was spared at the last minute due to someone screaming from the crowd saying “the youth had nothing to do with the rape and murder.” Camron was then returned to jail to await trial. The crowd was filled with men, women, and children shouting and jeering. Shipp and Smith has a noose put around their neck and were then pulled up into the tree, but they weren’t hung properly. Smith tried to free himself from the noose as his body were hauled, the mob lowered Abram and broke both his arms to prevent any more efforts of free himself. Police Officers in the crowd cooperated in the lynching.

The corpses hung in the square for hours, attracting throngs of gawkers. A man named Lawrence Beitler took the photograph of Shipp and Smith lynching. Beitler did not know at the time that he just capture one of the famous lynching photograph in American history. The photograph sold thousands of copies, which Beitler stayed up for 10 days and nights printing copies of the photograph.

Mary Bell later testified that she was never rape. The rape charge was dropped.

The third person James Camron was tried in 1931 as an accessory before the fact, convicted and sentenced to state prison for several years. Camron was later release on parole after serving four years. Camron moved to Detroit, worked and put himself though college. In the late 1940s he worked in Indiana as a civil rights and anti-lynching activist. In the 1950 he moved to Wisconsin. There in 1988 he founded America’s Black Holocaust Museum, for African-American history.

No one was charged in the lynch of Smith and Shipp nor the beating of Camron.

James Camron passed away on June 11, 2006, at the age of 92.


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