Feb. 26, 2018

Feb 26, 1870 The Terror-Filled Lynching of Wyatt Outlaw

The lynching of Wyatt Outlaw on the courthouse square in Graham in 1870 continues to reverberate across the generations of his family members as well as those seeking equality almost 150 years later. While our black community seems proverbially caught in the web of a non-existent fantasy nation in some far-off realm of total blackness and ultimate equality.  There is still the terror-filled history of our black ancestors who simply lived from minute to minute. Never knowing when any act towards race progression could turn deadly. So while we can be excited about the bankroll the movie Black Panther has provided Marvel/Disney Inc. Do we need to ask ourselves why is our true black history still carpeted over in ignorance?

The consequences for the State of North Carolina were profound, the lynching led to the very first impeachment of a governor in U.S. history. Wyatt Outlaw’s death, like that of State Sen. J. W. (“Chicken”) Stephens in the basement of the courthouse in Caswell County, in part, precipitated the “Kirk-Holden War.” Carole Troxler, Elon University professor, has examined the historical record concerning Outlaw. Biographical details gleaned from Congressional investigations into the 1870-71 Ku Klux Klan “outrages” and transcript of the impeachment trial of Gov. W. W. Holden are spare. Outlaw, likely the offspring of white merchant Chesley Faucett and Jemimah Phillips, a free black, served in the Union army, in the 2nd Regiment U.S. Colored Cavalry, first in Virginia with a later posting in Texas along the Rio Grande. On his return home, he opened a woodworking shop on North Main Street in Graham, repairing wagons and making coffins, in addition to specialty trimwork. (Troxler believes it likely that he trained with Thomas Day of Caswell County.) In 1866 he attended the second freedmen’s convention in Raleigh and soon after organized the Union League in Alamance as well as a school and church. Gov. Holden in 1868 appointed him as a town commissioner in Graham and he was elected to the post the following year. That board in 1869 organized an armed night patrol in response to the activities of the Klan.

 On Feb. 26, 1870, Outlaw became the target of a Ku Klux Klan mob of about 70-100 white supremacists Wyatt Outlaw was selected simply because he was an effective leader and had shown the ability to work with both races. That made Brother Outlaw public enemy number one and marked him for death. Seized in his house (over the cries of his young son), Outlaw was hanged from the limb of an elm tree which pointed to the courthouse. His mouth was slashed and a note pinned to his body: “Beware you guilty both white and black.” Another target of intimidation left town that night. Gov. Holden, acting on the authority of the Shoffner Act, declared Alamance and Caswell to be in a state of insurrection, setting in motion a sequence of events leading to his impeachment and removal in 1871. In 1873 eighteen men were charged with the murder but ex-Gov. Holden, among others, pleaded for their release and charges were dropped. Albion Tourgee used details from Outlaw’s life in composite characters in his Reconstruction novels. As per usual, no price was paid by the terrorists who savagely took Wyatt Outlaw's life. This was part and parcel of the Southern strategy to snatch away every right provided our black ancestors upon the Northern victory in the Civil War.

Today say a pray for Brother Wyatt Outlaw, who sought his Wakanda and paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.....