Without Sanctuary – An extraordinary visual legacy of slavery in America

Without Sanctuary

The corpse of Clyde Johnson. August 3, 1935 . Yreka, California. Gelatin silver print. Real photo postcard. 3.1/2 x 5 3/8 in. Etched in the negative, “Killer of Jack Daw Aug 3, 1935 vengence in Siskiyou County.”

Searching through America’s past for the last 25 years, collector James Allen uncovered an extraordinary visual legacy: photographs and postcards taken as souvenirs at lynchings throughout America. With essays by Hilton Als, Leon Litwack, Congressman John Lewis and James Allen, these photographs have been published as a book “Without Sanctuary” by Twin Palms Publishers . Features will be added to this site over time and it will evolve into an educational tool. Please be aware before entering the site that much of the material is very disturbing. We welcome your comments and input through the forum section.

Experience the images as a flash movie with narrative comments by James Allen, or as a gallery of photos which will grow to over 100 photos in coming weeks. Participate in a forum about the images, and contact us if you know of other similar postcards and photographs.


© 2000-2005 Collection of James Allen and John Littlefield

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      Without Sanctuary, the book

Without Sanctuary profiles another horrific and infamous lynching, which chronicles the only known living survivor of a lynching, that of James Cameron. The lynching of James Cameron, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith occurred in Marion, Indiana on August 7, 1930. The following account has been excerpted from Cameron’s book, A Time of Terror: “Thousands of Indianans carrying picks, bats, ax handles, crowbars, torches, and firearms attacked the Great County Courthouse, determined to ‘get those goddamn Niggers.’ A barrage of rocks shattered the jailhouse windows, sending dozens of frantic inmates in search of cover … The door was ripped from the wall, and a mob of fifty men beat Thomas Shipp senseless and dragged him into the street … The dead Shipp was dragged with a rope up to the window bars of the second victim, Abram Smith. For twenty minutes, citizens pushed and shoved for a closer look at the ‘dead nigger.’ By the time Abe Smith was hauled out he was equally mutilated. ‘Those who were not close enough to hit him threw rocks and bricks. Somebody rammed a crowbar through his chest several times in great satisfaction.’ Smith was dead by the time the mob dragged him ‘like a horse’ to the courthouse square and hung him from a tree. The lynchers posed for photos under the limb that held the bodies of the two dead men. Then the mob headed back for James Cameron and ‘mauled him all the way to the courthouse square,’ shoving and kicking him to the tree, where the lynchers put a hanging rope around his neck. Cameron credited an unidentified woman’s voice with silencing the mob and opening a path for his retreat to the county jail and, ultimately, for saving his life … After souvenir hunters divvied up the bloodied pants of Abram Smith, his naked body was clothed in a Klansman’s robe – not unlike the loincloth in traditional depictions of Christ on the cross.”

The truly ironic and scary part about the lynching of James Cameron, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana on August 7, 1930, is that it occurred just 50 miles from Indianapolis, Indiana, where I was once Chief of Contract Data Control and Communications for the Department of Defense at the Ft. Ben Harrison Army facility some 30 years ago. It was that position and experience which brought about the current and aforementioned federal lawsuit in San Diego, that Attorney General Eric Holder is defending against. Prior to being promoted to the position in Indianapolis a black female manager at the Defense facility in Chicago that I worked at told me to “watch the lay of the land,” which I would later learn was in reference to the area in and around Indianapolis and Marion having a reputation for Klu Klux Klan actiivity. While a supervisor at the facility in Indianapolis, I was held in a closed office by a white male deputy and a white female manager, and instructed as to what to include in a termination letter for a Hispanic male employee, which was unwarranted. Later, I was being coerced into firing a black female employee by these same white managers, and when I resisted and withdrew all proposed charges against her, I was stripped of my supervisory responsibilities and brought back to Chicago, being told that “I would never be a supervisor again.” Upon coming back to Chicago and refusing to signoff on a statement indicating that the Hispanic male employee was not discriminated, I was subsequently fired. It now gives me chills to think what could have been, especially considering the history of Marion, Indiana.  

Without Sanctuary is a history lesson for us all. The photos in this book of Laura Nelson hanging and swaying from the end of a rope, while her fourteen-year old son swung from another   rope about twenty feet from her with his clothes partly torn off and his hands tied behind his back, as well as that of Frank Embree, is a ghastly reminder of the cruelty of one race of people towards another. The grotesque photos of mutilated black bodies are a painful reminder of man’s inhumanity to man!
Read more at http://www.eurweb.com/2012/08/eur-book-look-without-sanctuary-lynching-photography-in-america/#MVR27DHk6cBjBJ7w.99

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