Marion lynchings shone light on injustice
1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana
February is Black History Month, a nationwide observance that provides us a chance to reflect on the roles African-Americans have played in the shaping of the country’s history. The Indianapolis Star this month is highlighting some of the black Hoosiers who contributed to that history.
Thomas Shipp, Abram Smith and James Cameron were teenagers in Marion on Aug. 7, 1930, when a white man was shot to death and a female friend was raped.
Within hours of the shooting, the three were arrested and held in the Grant County Jail. A mob congregated outside and decided to be judge, jury and executioner.
Shipp, 18, was dragged from his cell first, beaten, stabbed and hanged from a rope pulled through the bars of a jail window. Then the mob went for Smith, 19, dragging him to the courthouse square and hanging him from a maple tree.
Next, the mob went for Cameron, 16. A rope was placed around the teen’s neck. But for some reason — Cameron believed the voice of God quelled the vigilantes — the crowd relented.
He was returned to the jail and eventually was convicted of being an accessory to the killing of the white man. He served four years of a 21-year sentence before being paroled in 1935.
Cameron maintained his innocence in the shooting and assault and received a pardon in 1993 from Gov. Evan Bayh. He died in 2006 at age 92.
A photo of Shipp and Smith’s hanging was recognized as one of Life magazine’s "100 Photographs That Changed the World."