When Hose was finally apprehended, the surrounding hysteria led to excursion trains being arranged to transport hundreds of Georgians from Atlanta to the site of his execution. On Sunday, April 23, 1899, the day after his capture, Hose was brought before an estimated crowd of two thousand in the town square of Newman, Georgia. There he was stripped; his ears, fingers, and genitals cut off; his face skinned, and his body burned on a pyre. Souvenir hunters fought over his organs and bones.
Goldstone presents the lynching as emblematic of what had happened to the country in the thirty years since the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments were passed: “The descent of the United States into enforced segregation, into a nation where human beings could be tortured and horribly murdered without trial, is a story profoundly tragic and profoundly American.”
For W.E.B. Du Bois the lynching was an awakening. Having arrived at Atlanta University two years before, the pleasantries of his studies were shattered, as he recounts in Dusk of Dawn:
At the very time when my studies were most successful, there cut across this plan which I had as a scientist, a red ray which could not be ignored. I remember when it first, as it were, startled me to my feet: a poor Negro in central Georgia, Sam Hose, had killed his landlord’s wife. I wrote out a careful and reasoned statement concerning the evident facts and started down to the Atlanta Constitution office, carrying in my pocket a letter of introduction to Joel Chandler Harris [journalist and author of the Uncle Remus stories]. I did not get there. On the way news met me: Sam Hose had been lynched, and they said that his knuckles were on exhibition at a grocery store farther down on Mitchell Street, along which I was walking. I turned back to the University. I began to turn aside from my work. I did not meet Joel Chandler Harris nor the editor of the Constitution.Du Bois then began writing and lobbying against legislation that would disenfranchise Georgia blacks. His articles that year in The Atlantic Monthly and The Independent were the first of many to appear in national magazines over the next five decades.
Two considerations thereafter broke in upon my work and eventually disrupted it: first, one could not be a calm, cool, and detached scientist while Negroes were lynched, murdered, and starved; and secondly, there was no such definite demand for scientific work of the sort that I was doing. . . .
Also of interest:
- “Lynch Law in Georgia,” the 1899 investigative report by Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Louis P. Le Vin on this and nine other lynchings in Georgia at the time
- In 2009 The University of Georgia Press published What Virtue There Is in Fire: Cultural Memory and the Lynching of Sam Hose, a detailed historical account by Edwin T. Arnold