"TRUE JUSTICE WILL TRIUMPH… THERE MUST BE NO FUTURE COLUMBIAS": FIRST EDITION OF TERROR IN TENNESSEE, ISSUED BY THE NAACP TO DOCUMENT THE MURDEROUS 1946 COLUMBIA "RACE" RIOT
(COLUMBIA RACE RIOTS) (HARRINGTON, Oliver). Terror in Tennessee. (New York: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1946). Slim octavo, staple-bound as issued, original pictorial cream wrappers; pp.12. $650.
Scarce first edition of this NAACP pamphlet exposing the truth behind the Columbia Race Riots of 1946, photo-illustrated with powerful scenes from the riot.
This NAACP pamphlet provides the facts behind the Columbia Race Riots of 1946, in which white police officers looted and shot into buildings in Black neighborhoods and several Black protestors were murdered. "The events of 1946 were sparked over a dispute about a radio repair. James Stephenson, a young African American veteran, had just returned home from World War II and went to pick up a radio at Castner Knott with his mother. While there, he got into an altercation with Billy Fleming, a white store clerk, and the fight spilled out into the street. This led to the arrest of James and his mother, Gladys, on the trumped up charges of attempted murder. They were eventually released by the county sheriff, but by then a white mob had formed on the square and there were rumors of a lynching. Residents in the African American business district, located just one block off the square on East 8th Street, were sensitive to such rumors with the recent lynchings of Henry Choate and Cordie Cheek fresh on their minds. Many armed themselves and shot out the street lights. After four Maury County patrolman attempted to enter the area they were fired upon and this led Sherriff Underwood to call on the Governor for assistance. The Tennessee State Guard and Tennessee Highway Patrol were dispatched to the area. After a tense night, the Highway Patrol entered East 8th Street on the morning of February 26th where they did extensive damage to African American owned businesses. Over 100 people were arrested and two fatalities occurred while in police custody. Eventually, 25 African Americans were charged and tried by an all-white jury in in neighboring Lawrenceburg. They were represented by NAACP lawyers Marshall, Z. Alexander Looby, Maurice Weaver, and Leon Ransom. All but two were acquitted and charges were never brought against James Stephenson who fled to Chicago and never returned to the area" (Columbia Daily Herald). While the author is unnamed in the edition, reprints identify him as Oliver Harrington, a staff cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Courier. Langston Hughes once called him "America's greatest African-American cartoonist"; the striking and poignant cover of this pamphlet certainly provides evidence for Hughes' opinion.