Lena Baker, an African American mother of three, was electrocuted at the Georgia State Prison in Reidsyille.
She was convicted for the fatal shooting of E. B. Knight, a white Cuthbert, GA mill operator she was hired to care for after he broke his leg. She was 44 and the only woman ever executed in Georgia’s electric chair. For Baker, a Black maid in the segregated south in the 1940’s, her story was a tough sell to a jury of 12 white men. And rumors that she was romantically involved with victim E. B. Knight did not help.
Her murder trial lasted just a day, without a single witness called by her court-appointed lawyer. She was convicted and sentenced to death. John Cole Vodicka, director of an Americus-based inmate advocacy program known as the Prison and Jail Project, said Knight had kept Ms. Baker as his “virtual sex slave.” She was his paramour, she was his mistress, and, among other things, his drinking partner. If you read the transcript and have any understanding of black-white relations, Black women were often subjected to the sexual whims of their white masters, their white bosses, or some white man who had control over their lives or the lives of their families. “Here is one who resisted and paid the price.”
In 2005, The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles decided to pardon Lena Baker. Although the board did not find Baker innocent of the crime. It instead found the decision to deny her clemency in 1945 “was a grievous error, as this case called out for mercy.”