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African American baseball players from Morris Brown College

[Detail] African American baseball players from Morris Brown College

A sermon on lynch law and raping: preached by Rev. E. K. Love, D. D., at 1st African Baptist Church, Savannah, Ga., of which he is pastor, November 5, 1893.

Emanuel K. Love (1850-1900), a prominent Baptist leader, preached this sermon to his Savannah, Georgia congregation. In it, he discusses lynchings, charges of rape, and mob violence against African-Americans in the South.

There can be nothing more horrifying to a refined, honest, fairminded, law abiding, upright christian gentleman than the riddling with bullets, hanging and burning of an innocent man, and yet this is possible under a system of lynch law. Indeed I regret to state that this has occurred. The lynchers can hardly justify themselves by saying that the man confessed his crime. He did not do so in a lawful assembly nor in the presence of lawful witnesses. For these men, themselves, were assembled for the purpose of committing an unlawful act. Before the bar of civilized opinion, they stand charged of the foulest murder known to the annals of history, and hence, I gravely doubt that they are competent witnesses.

The great American liberty-loving people will not wait much longer for these outrages to stop. They will arise in their majesty and might and demand a halt to these savage outrages.

The action of these mobs show that they are not after a mere punishment of these crimes, but that they are seeking in the most barbarous manner, revenge. For they hang, shoot and burn. Either one of these deaths is barbarous enough. I think that no tribunal on earth would give sentence for more than one of these at the time and yet our civilized, christian people give all of them at once. This shows that these men are utterly unprepared to take the law into their hands. If they are justifiable in one case, they would be justifiable in all.

Pushing this argument further to its logical conclusion we would have no need for courts to administer the law, for Legislatures, nor Congress to make laws, and hence every lawful assembly would be destroyed in our country and every man would be a law unto himself and would punish crime as his senseless passion might dictate. Indeed, no man in this country would be safe.

Law is that principle which governs a people and regulates their affairs and promotes their truest. Wise and equitable laws, fairly interpreted and impartially administered, will meet every emergency of a people. Happily for us, we can boast of such laws and there is absolutely no need to over-ride them. Lynch law is a sad reflection upon the courts. The lynchers in effect say that the officers of the law are unreliable; dishonest and cannot be relied on to punish criminals in accordance with their oath. Surely the lynchers will not presume to say that they know more about the law than the officers of the law. I ask, therefore, in all seriousness, what is the objection to the law taking its course? I have yet to see or hear a reasonable excuse for lynching and surely a thing for which not a single reason can be given ought to be abandoned.

Full text (Library of Congress/African-American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P.Murray Collection, 1818-1907)