1930 – Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith are lynched

On the evening of August 6, 1930, Thomas Shipp, Abram Smith and James Cameron were arrested for the murder of one Claude Deeter and the rape of his girlfriend, Mary Ball, in Marion, Indiana. Shipp, Smith and Cameron were all black, while Deeter and Ball were white.

Before dawn the next day, a large crowd gathered. Breaking into the cells where they were held, they dragged the three men outside, where Shipp and Smith were lynched (Cameron was able to flee after some members of the mob pronounced him innocent). A photographer named Lawrence Beitler took a photograph of the scene, including two dead men still hanging from their nooses, which sold thousands of copies and became an iconic image of racial injustice.

Ball later stated that she had not been raped by anyone; Cameron stated that Shipp and Smith were guilty of Deeter’s murder.

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Strange Fruit — Billie Holiday

1959 – Billie Holiday dies

Born Eleanora Harris, Billie Holiday was one of the greatest singers of the Twentieth Century. She sang across a range of genres, including jazz, folk and pop, but always in a voice and a style that was distinctively her own. It is no exaggeration to say that she single-handedly changed the way that pop music was sung – no female vocalist who followed her is entirely free of her shadow, and not a few male vocalists also owe a debt – Frank Sinatra, for example, said that she was his single largest influence.

Holiday’s death, at the age of 44, came a few months after she was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, caused by her heavy drinking. She died after spending a month and a half in hospital – a period during which she was arrested by the New York Police Department for drug possession and other crimes. Her health had prevented her from being arraigned, and the charges were still pending when she died, placing her beyond the reach of any earthly jurisdiction.

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Woke Up This Morning — Alabama 3