By Dominic J. Capeci Jr.
" Winner of the 1999 Missouri heritage publication Award On January 20, 1942, black oil mill employee Cleo Wright assaulted a white girl in her domestic and approximately killed the 1st police officer who attempted to arrest him. An offended mob then hauled Wright out of detention center and dragged him throughout the streets of Sikeston, Missouri, ahead of burning him alive. Wright's loss of life was once, regrettably, now not distinctive in American historical past, yet what his dying intended within the higher context of lifestyles within the usa within the twentieth-century is a crucial and compelling tale. After the lynching, the U.S. Justice division used to be compelled to get entangled in civil rights matters for the 1st time, frightening a countrywide response to violence at the domestic entrance at a time while the rustic used to be scuffling with for democracy in Europe. Dominic Capeci unravels the tragic tale of Wright's lifestyles on a number of levels, displaying how those acts of violence have been indicative not just of racial stress however the conflict of the normal and the trendy led to through the battle. Capeci attracts from a variety of archival assets and private interviews with the individuals and spectators to attract bright pictures of Wright, his sufferers, law-enforcement officers, and individuals of the lynch mob. He locations Wright within the greater context of southern racial violence and exhibits the importance of his demise in neighborhood, kingdom, and nationwide historical past through the most vital trouble of the twentieth-century.
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Extra info for The lynching of Cleo Wright
Nienstedt feared that an anesthetic might prove fatal. 28 When visited after surgery by his in-laws, Richard and Minnie Gay, he was unconscious. Nor did he recognize his wife, Ardella, shortly before daylight, when full hospital rooms and emergency-only treatment for blacks required his removal by ambulance to his home in Sunset Addition, escorted by Policeman Grover H. 32 By now, much of Sikeston knew of the dying prisoner's attacks on Sturgeon and Perrigan. , when she went off duty, the operator who received Laverne Sturgeon's "Mayday" and directed police to the crime scene handled 666 calls, five and a half times more than the normal number.
They lived in Ward 2 and followed the lead of party workers loyal to Grover C. Baker, a Democratic Party organizer, and undertook their assignments as much for money as for political belief. 50 Certainly personal contact and paternal treatment blurred lines of acceptable behavior for blacks and whites, yet certain taboos were understood by all in the postslavery era of segregation and racial etiquette. 51 No transgres- Page 10 sion sparked a more violent reaction than real or imagined interracial sexual contact, savagely exemplified by the lynching of Roosevelt Grigsby in nearby Charleston during the mid-1920s for allegedly attempting to rape a sixteen-year-old white girl.
Whether they were speaking on or off the record, as noted in the bibliography, the courage of those who spoke is most appreciated. And because no one has been indicted, much less found guilty for having killed Wright, fictitious names have been given to those believed most responsible for his death. Much of this information could not have been gathered without the assistance of a handful of individuals. In Sikeston, the late Walter Griffen of Sunset Addition; the Reverend Tom Geers, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church; and Michael L.