Do you know anyone by the name of Frank Embree?
You should- Mr. Embree should be a household name that you know and that future generations learn about- he should be a person that is never forgotten because his life holds the key to our future.
Our country claims to be great but the only way we can ever truly become what we claim to be is to relive the darkest parts of our history- not only learn it but keep it with us and share it with our children and use it to change their future.
While situations like what happened to Mr. Embree are no longer tolerated- there are still situations that come way too close for comfort- I think of all the recent news of black teens murdered for no reason or think back to several Trump rallies where black people were shoved or hit. I think about Mr. Embree anytime I see large mobs or riots breaking out because that is when true human nature comes out and it can be terrifying and I’m a straight white guy- so if it scares me that much, I can’t imagine what Mr. Embree felt on July 21st, 1899…at only 19 years old.
When you start researching Mr. Embree- three main pictures come up over and over again and they are beyond disturbing due to the graphic nature of not only the picture but the story behind them.
Back on June 17th, 1899, (in Missouri) Miss Willie Doughtery stated that she was dragged from a horse and assaulted and raped by a black man. The attacker was believed to be riding a horse owned by John Collins so the attacker was assumed to be his nephew, Frank Embree.
At that time, an advertisement was posted offering a reward of $300 for the capture of Mr. Embree; who was from Kansas but in Missouri at the time. Mr. Embree was afraid of a lynching in Missouri so he fled back to Kansas- where he was arrested. Mr. Embree was sent back to Missouri and his fears were correct- a mob of up to 1,000 people had already formed and had plans to bypass any law or trial, which caused Mr. Embree to request to be transferred back to Kansas- for his safety and to receive his fair trial.
At the time, the Intelligencer (a newspaper in the area) called for law and order and closed with the following- “He (Embree) might be the wrong negro and the law should be allowed to take its own course.” Instead- it was decided that they would transfer Mr. Embree to another area of Missouri- to Howard County by railroad car.
Mr. Embree didn’t make it to his destination.
The mob intercepted the officials and took Mr. Embree to the site of the alleged rape and demanded a confession. Mr. Embree refused to admit guilt.
(The next part is graphic but is a part of our true reality and the words and images need to be viewed and burned into our minds so that a situation like this is never allowed to happened again.)
The mob then stripped Mr. Embree, who was still handcuffed, and slashed him with a bullwhip 103 times- each hit ripped his flesh open and allowed blood to flow down his body. The mob stopped this brutal attack and again requested that Mr. Embree admit to his crime- he continued to claim his innocence. He was again made to stand up and he started receiving whips again…until he could no longer stand the pain and agony and cried out for them to stop- he broke down and said he would confess to anything they wanted if they would only stop the torture.
Mr. Embree knew the only outcome of this situation so he requested that the beaten stop and that the angry mob not burn him but to shoot him or hang him- he knew the mob would not allow him to live to see another day.
He requested that his parents be told of his death and the mob allowed him to say a final prayer before they hung him and watched him die. (some reports say he was castrated as well but others claim he was not.)
On July 27th, 1899- the Democrat-leader (another local newspaper) ran a story under the headline- “Frank Embree, the black fiend who so brutally ravished Miss Willie Dougherty on Saturday, June 17th, has paid for his hellish crime.” Their editorial section included the comment- “His fate is a fair warning to all others who would commit such hellish crimes. The citizens of Howard County will not tolerate such. The negro was given no more than he deserved. Let others beware.”
On top of all of this violence and hatred- those pictures of Mr. Embree were then made into post cards and sent years after- postcards of the brutal attack and murder of a man who never got his chance for justice.
At this point, it doesn’t matter of Mr. Embree was guilty (there is a very good chance he wasn’t), what matters is that he wasn’t given a chance and the reason behind that is racism and the power of a large group of people who hate someone- regardless of their guilt- simply because of their race. His lynching wasn’t so much due to the fact that he was accused of raping a child but based on the fact that he was a black man.
It scares me to realize that this only happened 120-ish years ago….barely two lifetimes. It destroys me that we aren’t taught the realities of our past and how we got to where we are today and it terrifies me that I see the spark of this situation happening again…while it hasn’t gotten to this point, you can see the beginning of history repeating itself and I truly believe that is because we try to ignore situations like what happened to Mr. Embree and the longer we ignore our reality and true history- the longer it will take to truly make changes.
After writing all of this- I have decided to NOT post the pictures that were taken before/during/after Mr. Embree’s lynching. I do believe they should be seen in order to fully understand the cruelty humans are capable of but I don’t want to be the person to show them. You can simply Google Mr. Embree’s name and see them for yourself.
I will end by sharing one of the only non-violent pictures I could find of Mr. Embree and I can’t even confirm that he’s in this picture but I like to think he is and that this is the type of memories he had in his head while his life was being taken from him. The thought of the fear Mr. Embree faced literally brings tears to my eyes.
We need to know the stories of people like Mr. Embree in order to be better people, create a better society and to truly make America great.
Love, Peace and Sharkyness