Lynching and Kidnapping

December 19, 1933

Report Outline
Growth Laynching and Kidnaping During 1933
Persistence of Lynch Law in the United States
State and National Efforts to Suppress Lynching
Progress of Federal Campaign Against Kidnaping
Special Focus

Growth Laynching and Kidnaping During 1933

Governor Rolph's Defense of San Jose Laynching

A Resurgence of the crime of lynching during 1933 and an extraordinary wave of kidnapingS have aroused widespread public apprehension and indignation, resulting in a renewal of the campaign for passage of a federal anti-Iynehing statute and in proposals that Congress at its January session strengthen the provisions of the federal anti-kidnaping law of June 22, 1932. Whereas the number of lynching in 1932 dropped to the. lowest point on record, only eight persons falling victim to that form of mob violence, the total this year has soared to three times that number, making 1933 with one exception the worst year for lynehings in the last, decade. There was also an unprecedented number of kidnaping outrages, this crime being particularly prevalent through the summer months.

While kidnapings were less frequent during the autumn, it was in November that popular feeling on both lynching and kidnaping reached a climax, when the two crimes were combined in California with the lynching at San Jose of the kidnapers and murderers of Brooke Hart. That event gave rise to spirited public controversy owing to its defense by Governor James Rolph, Jr. as “the best lesson that California has ever given the country.” The Governor, who before the lynching had said that he would not send troops to San Jose, not only condoned the action of the mob but declared that “if anyone is arrested for the good job, I'll pardon them all.” He asserted that “if the people have confidence that troops will not be called out to mow them down when they seek to protect themselves against kidnapers, there is liable to be swifter justice and fewer kidnapings,” San Jose citizens, he averred, were “probably reminded of the met age of justice by the vigilantes in the early days of San Francisco's history, and the pioneer blood in their veins caused them in the height of their feeling to avenge the murder and kidnaping.”

Although Ralph's views received some favorable comment, they were vigorously condemned in many quarters. A group of prominent Californians, including former President Hoover, declared that “laudation of the mob and its action …particularly when coming from a chief executive of the state, undermines the very foundations upon which the state and all civilized society is built—respect, and reverence in the minds of the citizenry for law, order, and justice.” Will W. Alexander, executive director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, in a statement issued on November 27, the day following the lynching, drew a contrast between the progress made in apprehending and punishing kidnapers and the obstacles still encountered in attempts to wipe out lynching.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Feb. 12, 2021  Slavery's Legacy
May 12, 2017  Anti-Semitism
Mar. 17, 2017  ‘Alt-Right’ Movement
Sep. 18, 2015  Far-Right Extremism
Nov. 22, 2013  Racial Profiling
May 08, 2009  Hate Groups
Jun. 01, 2007  Shock Jocks Updated
Jan. 07, 1994  Racial Tensions in Schools
Jan. 08, 1993  Hate Crimes
May 12, 1989  The Growing Danger of Hate Groups
Nov. 05, 1969  American History: Reappraisal and Revision
Mar. 31, 1965  Extremist Movements in Race and Politics
May 13, 1964  Racism in America
Dec. 03, 1958  Spread of Terrorism and Hatemongering
Jul. 10, 1946  Ku Klux Klan
Jan. 09, 1945  Race Equality
Dec. 19, 1933  Lynching and Kidnapping
Crime and Law Enforcement