Photo credits: WorthPoint/The Chicago Defender
The death of Jesse James Payne occurred around October 12, 1945, in Madison County, Florida. It stemmed from an argument he had with his landlord.
Payne was kidnapped, hunted, shot, and accused of attempting to rape a five-year-old girl. His only crime may have been attempting to stand up for himself at a time when that could cost a black man his life. Even after death, however, Payne would not simply disappear.
As reports of his death spread around the state and nation, the calls for justice became increasingly difficult to ignore. When investigations proved fruitless, the demands for action turned to sharp criticism, directed mainly toward Florida’s governor, Millard Caldwell.
The national reaction to Jesse James Payne’s lynching indicated that an increasing number of white Americans were unwilling to look the other way while African Americans were denied due process and the full protection of the law.
More importantly, they were concerned with the way it made their country look on the international stage, especially in the U.S. entered a “cold war” against the Soviets.
Sources: University Press Scholarship Online via universitypressscholarship.com, “Still at it: The Lynching of Jesse James Payne, Madison County, 1945 by T. Hobbs