Today, as my annual homage to these two poor souls every year, I placed memorial wreaths at the lynching site of Jesse Slayton and Will Miles. I’m asking all concerned citizens of Columbus, Georgia to go by the median on Broadway and 11th Street to pay homage to these two poor souls that were unjustly put to death without due process of law June 1, 1896.
No one was convicted of this heinous crime because no witnesses came forth to testify. The picture show Columbus, Georgia police officers witnessing these lynchings.
The Lynching of Jesse Slayton and Will Miles
On Monday morning, June 1, 1896, Jesse Slayton and Will Miles were lynched on Broadway and Eleventh Street in Columbus, Georgia. At 9am, Jesse Slayton was on trial for raping Mrs. Howard Bryan, a White woman. During the trial an angry mob of bullies, tyrants, extremists, gang members with Winchesters, shotguns, pistols and a noose burst through the double doors and dragged Jesse out of the courtroom with the noose around his neck. At every pace, the rope was pulled tighter. The Judge looked on in mute and powerless as the prisoner was taken before his eyes.
At the top of the stairs Jesse was shot dead. From Broadway and Tenth Street to Broadway and Eleventh Street, the mob fired hundreds of bullets into his dead body as it whirled through the dust of the street. On Broadway within a few feet of the Eleventh street sidewalk, they stopped and threw the end of the rope around a limb of a tree. In seconds Jesse was swinging in the air and weapons poured bullets into his lifeless body again. As each bullet struck the body it was rocking about. Bullets tore through every limb and in little more than another second he was nothing more than a horrible mass of mutilated human flesh. A SHOTGUN BLAST TOOK OFF HIS FACE!
Will Miles, who was acquitted several times, was taken from the City Jail on the same day to be hung and shot repeatedly. Prior to the disbursement of the mob a member of the mob held the head of Will Miles as they posed for multiple photos, The mutilated bodies of Jesse Slayton and Will Miles hung suspended from the tree on Broadway until 8:00pm. Signs were hung on both bodies saying “That any Nigga who committed a similar crime would be treated likewise!” Both victims are buried in paupers’ graves in Porterdale Cemetery.
Gov. W.Y. Atkinson had offered ($5,000) five thousand dollars reward for the arrest and conviction of the first ten lynchers. The ($500) five hundred dollars apiece was said to be the largest reward ever offered in the state for a criminal offense.
In the Atlanta Constitution, June 1896, Gov. Atkinson is quoted as follows:
“I was astonished,” said the governor yesterday, as he stood at the car shed, waiting for his train, “to learn of this recent lynching. It is a great blot on the record of Georgia that a criminal who had been arrested by due process of law, and who was on trial, should have been taken from the very court of justice itself and hanged by the mob. This occurred in the midst of a thickly populated city, where there was an abundance of county and city officials, with the military within easy call.
What astonished me still more was that not a single shot was fired, or so far as I can learn, not a single attempt was made by the officers to defend the prisoner or to see that the laws of the State were properly executed.
“It is this sort of thing which brings criticism to our courts of justice. This lynching business must stop. If one sheriff would defend his prisoner, as he would his life, and never give his charge up to a mob until he was over-powered, it would go far to putting an end to lynch law in Georgia. The laws of the state provide for sure and speedy trial for such offences as those of which the two Negroes were guilty. This lynching spirit should be put down, even if it takes bullets to do so. When once the officers of the state defend their prisoners with their own lives, then lynching in Georgia will be at an end.”