This is a photograph of African-American cotton pickers in Georgia’s New South economy. Many of these workers lived on the property of white landowners and in many ways acted and lived in the same way as they had in Antebellum Georgia–often in the same slave shacks as their enslaved ancestors.
Sam Hose went to jail for killing a white man and attacking his wife in front of her children in 1899 when a white mob took him from his sell to a new location to torture him to death. This mob mutilated Hose’s body while he was tied up, eventually burning him alive while over 2,000 people watched, according to the Atlanta Constitution. Much of this crowd came a long way to see Hose murdered and tortured after hearing that he had attacked a white family. At this point in Georgia, lynching was at an all time high, with its toll at 458 lynchings and only beat by Mississippi’s toll of 538. In 1899, Georgia hit its peak, with 27 lynchings in a year.
After Reconstruction ended in Georgia, reports of violence became widespread throughout the state. Georgia ranked second to Mississippi with 458 lynch victims between the end of Reconstruction and the early twentieth century. The number of lynch victims peaked in 1899 when 27 Georgians were killed. Among the more high-profile lynch victims of Georgia was Leo Frank (August 17, 1915), a Jewish man of Atlanta who was convicted of murdering his 15-year-old employee (Mary Phagan). Leo Frank was raised in New York and came to Georgia in the early twentieth century to manage the National Pencil Company. Frank was convicted largely on the testimony of Jim Conley, an African-American janitor working at the factory. After a series of failed appeals, including one to the U.S. Supreme Court, Frank’s lawyers appealed to Governor John. M. Slaton. After reviewing the case, Slaton commuted Frank’s sentence to life in prison. Feelings of outrage and anger, likely flared by populist newspaper editor Tom Watson’s writings, came to a head on August 17, 1915, when Leo Frank was hanged by a mob in Marietta, Georgia. For more information go to the New Georgia Encyclopedia page on Leo Frank and his case.
Henry Grady was one of the most celebrated and prominent figures in “New South” Georgia. Grady promoted the ideas of the “New South” as editor of the Atlanta Constitution and helped organize the first International Cotton Exposition in 1881.
Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise Speech” is considered one of the most important speeches in American history. The speech was given at the opening of the Cotton Sates and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia on September 18, 1895. Throughout his life, Washington promoted vocational education and labor instead of agitation for social equality.
Listen to the Speech Below:
Housed in the rare book collection of the Georgia Historical Society, this guide was used by attendees of the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia. The guidebook includes an introduction to the organization and purpose of the exhibit, a description of each exhibit, general information on Atlanta for visitors, and advertisements from local businesses and organizations. This primary source set includes selected pages from the guidebook.
This print dedicated to the Atlanta Exposition gives a visual representation of the “New South.” Atlanta held multiple cotton expositions in order to revamp Georgia’s economy after the war. Henry Grady was on of the leading promoters of these expositions, as he wrote in “The South and Her Struggles.”
“From Darkness to Light.” Hamilton, Grant E. L1979-40_12, 19th and Early 20th Century Labor Prints, Southern Labor Archives. Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University.
Text At the Bottom Reads of the Image Reads:
FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT.
DEDICATED TO THE ATLANTA EXPOSITION.
Hail, splendid South ! from out the ruins rising.
In morning’s glory from the night of war.
Courage survives, all rancor’s past despising,
And wounds received in honor leave no scar.
The New South, that was Grady’s fair ideal,
Stands now, through enterprise and genius, real.
“Lynch Law in Georgia” was published by the Colored Citizens of Chicago in 1882. Ida B. Wells was part of the Great Migration movement, in which African-Americans moved North in large numbers, looking for equality and opportunity outside of the South. Yet Wells did not cut ties with the South and continued to work toward justice for black Southerners even after she left.
This source is particularly interesting, because it demonstrates the complications of archival research. This image, originally believed to be a portrait of Matilda Beasley, manager of the Sacred Heart Orphanage. Beasley was born enslaved, became free, and moved to Savannah, where she became a teacher to enslaved children, got married to a free black man, and led a devoutly Catholic life. Beasley is extremely famous in Savannah history, yet the woman in the picture is most likely of Josephine Beasley, wife of Abram Beasley who was a child of Mathilda’s husband. Based on the style of clothing and hair the image is thought to be circa 1890, when Matilda would have been 71 years old.
Between 1883 and 1892, photographer William E. Wilson documented the lives of sharecroppers and day-to-day life in Georgia through his photography. Wilson made his living doing portraits but he had a passion for documentary photography. This type of photography focuses on capturing the everyday. Unlike a posed portrait, these photographs show a more unstaged view of life in the Savannah area during the late 1880s and early 1890s.