Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.
For the record
An earlier headline on this post incorrectly reported the length of the jury’s deliberations. It was five hours and 15 minutes, not 15 minutes.
A few weeks after the acquittals in the lynching of Willie Earle, who was suspected of killing a cabdriver, Los Angeles Assemblymen [Gus] Hawkins and [??] Allen introduced a resolution in Sacramento urging Congress to pass a Federal anti-lynching law. [In 1962, Augustus Freeman “Gus” Hawkins became the first African American elected to Congress from a Western state].
A Gallup poll found nationwide support for such a law (69% to 20% with 11% having no opinion). Among Southern states, 56% favored an anti-lynching statute with 35% opposed and 9% having no opinion.
The Los Angeles Times editorialized that a Federal anti-lynching law was unnecessary:
“The Times is as strongly opposed to lynching as any member of the committee [a civil rights panel named by President Truman] could be, and as firmly of the belief that lynchers should be punished. But certain facts which the committee apparently failed to consider must be faced: among them that in Federal courts, the juries must be drawn from the district where the crime was committed, and would give the same sort of verdicts that would be rendered in state courts. It is more the failure of juries to convict that prevents punishment of lynchers than the want of zealous prosecution.
“Lynching is in fact a rare and infrequent crime. There were six lynchings in the United States last year, which is more than the national average for the past couple of decades. That is, of course, six too many. But in the same period there were thousands of murders; Los Angeles alone has more than 100 a year and nobody proposes a Federal anti-murder law.
“…We do not in human relations progress by mutation; on the contrary we advance a step at a time. Left alone, our interracial relations would gradually ameliorate; they have been bettered by this process within the generation. Stirred up, they are more likely to worsen.”
Source: Los Angeles Times, May 22, 1947; June 8, 1947; July 2, 1947; Oct. 31, 1947