Camera Rolls: 317:45-47
Sound Rolls: 317:24-25
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Sam Doane , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on December 19, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.*
OK, first I want you to tell me about the relationship between blacks and whites in the Eastern Shore during the '30s, the early '30s.
It wasn't too bad. They didn't, no everybody stayed in their place. And it really wasn't all that bad, you know, during that time. We had some good ones, and we had some bad ones, the same way it is today. So that's about the way we were all through the '30s.
OK, when you talk about it, talk about blacks and whites staying in, you know, so I have, I know who you are talking about.
Well the blacks had their place, and the whites had their place. Blacks stayed in their place, and the whites stayed in their place. And that's the reason that they got along because we had a lot of good, good, white people at that time. Then we had a lot of bad ones also, but overall I think it was a good relationship.
OK, how did, how did you hear about the arrest of George Armwood?
My father had a store [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] at that time, and I was there at the store quite a bit. And in that way all the news comes through, people coming and going, and that's how we got the news.
OK, now what, so what were you doing on the day that George Armwood was lynched?
That's a, [laughs] that's a good question, but I'm sure that I was up to my father's store during that time. Before the lynching, see what happened they did this at night, the lynching was done at night. During the day I was up at my father's store, and then I went down to the other place where a fellow by the name of Lord Whitterson owned. I don't know how we, what we were doing down there, but we were down there at the time, by time it got dark.
So what happened at the store? What, what happened? What, what did you see?
Well at the time, well I, before that I saw a whole lot of cars coming in town, and I heard rumors that they were going to lynch the boy that night. And during the day I saw a lot of cars come in town, and so that night, two of the fellows that owned the store, his sons went up there [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] theirselves [sic] up there just to look. And Joe and I were in the store at the time, then we heard all this commotion coming down the street. We came outside to see what was going on, and they was [sic] dragging him down the street at that time, George Armwood. They were too concerned with what they were doing they didn't pay us any attention. So we saw them when they hung him up the tree, took him down, and went back, tied him on the back of the car, started back up the street again. But in the meantime, Mr. Whitterson made us come in because he didn't know what they might do to us if they saw us out there.
OK, now, will you tell again the story about Mr. Whitterson? Start from the beginning, as to him bringing you in, to the—
Well, Mr. Whitterson had a farm down near our house, and he used to send his boys out there to do work, and he'd always get us to help them while they were out there. That's how we got a relationship with him, and he was concerned about our safety while this was going on.
That's a roll out.
OK, so tell me about the white store owner. Start off and speak up, speak up for me.
Well the guy that, he called us into the building during the lynching, we, we used to work for him. And then, I don't know what I was doing at his place at that particular time, this was a white farmer. That's what I said in the beginning, that were some good ones and some bad ones, in the area, and he was one of the good ones. And, so this is what happened when all of this was going on, he was scared for our safety, and then he called us back into the store so that they, he was afraid that they might do something to us.
OK, I'm sorry [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]
OK, so begin again, and say who he was, and—
I said ask the question again.
OK, tell me about the white store owner and his reaction to you all being outside watching the lynching.
Well he was a white farmer that we used to work for at times, and I don't really know why I was at his store at the time, but the reason he called us back in because he [sic] afraid that they might do something to us, so he was real concerned about our safety.
And what did he say? What do you remember?
He just said, "Now boys, come on back in the store before something else happens." [coughs]
OK, good. Now, how did you feel, being a witness at that lynching, when you saw them hang George Armwood?
Well being young like we were, we were just, we didn't feel very good about it. We felt that we wish we could hang a white up the same limb, on that same limb, anybody, didn't care who it was. So really, being as young as we were at the time, we didn't have too much different feelings about it.
Mm-hmm, was it scary? I mean—
Well, at the age that we were at that time we wasn't scared of anything much, so it really didn't effect us that much.
Well what happened the next day when you and Joe told your dad?
Start with saying, you know, "When you told him—"
When we told him, when we told our father what had happened, the first thing he wanted to know what we were doing there, and that he didn't want us, you know, in a place like that. [coughs] And, I'd like to say he wouldn't even want us to leave home for a while until things quiet down, but we were able, because of him having the store there [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] we were able to go back to the store that morning, and that's when we were able to go over and see him after they had burned him up.
OK, now, OK so you, you went to see George Armwood the next day?
Right, uh huh.
What did you find?
I found his corpse laying up on a pile of ashes, and plus where they had cut his ear off, where they had cut his penis, and he was about, I'd say about one-third by now.
Can you say that again, can you start over and describe what you did? You went over to the lumber yard, you're telling us, tell it like you're telling us a story, because we don't know it so you have to help us kind of visualize what happened. So if you can go back and say that you, you know, you went over to the lumber yard and this is what you saw.
And speak up.
But the problem is, I don't think it was a lumber, it might have been a lumber yard, but it wasn't far off from the main street.
OK, well wherever you remember where it was.
All right, well start wherever you remember.
The next morning, quite a number of people were coming into town to see what had happened, and we went over and found where he was lying, and, where he was burnt up. The ear is missing, his penis missing, and everybody was coming, shaking their heads, and leaving. And I, we stayed over there quite a while I think, but it was an awful sight to see, him being burnt up like that.
So, how did the town's people react? Were they milling around, what were they—?
Basically, all the good white people were hanging around, all the hoodlums was, I didn't see any of them around, the ones that was concerned with and helped to do this. There was a number of black people that came in town, I said, this is a country town, and most of the people that comes in town is from the areas around the, you know, the country area around, and a good many of them came in to look at the body before they took it away.
So was it a paying of respects, is that how you saw it, or was it just to seek curiosity?
Curiosity was the biggest thing. Yes that's what they were, they were curious about what had happened and, and to see him like he was. Because word had gotten around about the lynching, and everybody came in to see what was happening.
Can you say that again in a full statement? That word had gotten around and people came in because they were curious to come see what, to come see what had—
What he looked like.
OK, what was I sup—
Start out with, "Word had gotten around..."
Oh, the word had gotten around that they had lynched a boy that night, and everybody was coming in to see him because they knew he, and word had also gotten around, you see word gets around fast in a small area, and they knew that he was lying back there where he was, and they come in to see.
So can you tell me a little bit about how they got to that point, I mean, that they lynched him first and then what happened? I mean they—
Well what they did first,
they broke into jail, I think, from what I've heard, that when they threw him down those steps, which was about twenty steps, and steel steps, that he was dead before they ever took him out of the jail.
** They drug him down to where they hung him at, behind the car, hung him up the tree for a few minutes, took him down, put him behind the car again, brought him to the spot, and then set him on fire. I guess he wasn't dead enough for their concerns, they wanted to make sure he was.
What was it like in the town afterwards? First talk about the black community, how the black community felt afterwards?
That's a good question. That far back I guess, mostly it was talk. Everybody talking about it, and-
Again, I'm sorry, can you, I don't mean to interrupt, but can you start over by saying, "After the lynching mostly it was..." because we're going to pick this up at the beginning?
OK, after the lynching, the next morning, word had gotten around that this had happened and a good many neighboring communities came in town, people came in town to see, see him, where he'd gotten, also that they burnt him up, and that his body was laying back of this building. And they were coming in to see, to see it.
And how about the talk in the town?
The talk in the town was, "It was a shame," wanted to know why they had done it, in fact I understand, after where's the lady he was supposed to have raped said he didn't do it. And, it was, the people were furious, but at that time people didn't have much of a chance around here as far as retaliating for what had happened.
OK, so what do you, how did the white community react? Was there tension between blacks and whites after this event?
No, not between the good ones and the blacks. The good ones they all felt the same way that the blacks did, and they thought it was a terrible thing for somebody to do like that. Basically most of the people that were involved in it was out of town, because cars was coming in from all ways for a long time, during that day, and then this happened at night. But the good white people in [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] at that time felt as bad as the blacks did.
OK, I also want to go back to your story about your, your dad. Maybe I should cut, should I cut?
OK, so start again with the beginning of the story, about what happened that afternoon.
See, what else—
Was it day or was it night?
This was late in the afternoon, but all this went on at night. It was dark by time they got down the street. This was mostly night too. OK, you want me to start when we first saw them?
Mm-hmm, and hearing the commotion.
OK, you ready?
OK, you want me to tell you where I was at the—
OK, a friend of mine, a boy by the name of Joe Miller, and I went to Lord Whitterson's store. He was a white farmer that had a farm out near our, where we lived, and we did a lot of work for him. So then we were at his store and we didn't know, I don't know why we were there, but what happened we heard all this commotion coming down the street. We went outside to see what it was, and it was there, there, people was doing their lynching, dragging George Armwood behind a car to a spot where they hung him up a tree, which was not too far from where we were standing at the time. They hung him up the tree,
they hung George up the tree, and then they took him down, put him behind the car, and started back towards town.
** And at that time Mr. Whitterson made Joe and I go into the store because he was afraid that they would do something to us.
Great, can you cut for a second. That was great, that's what we're talking about! Give us the whole thing, the whole nine yards, the—
OK, start it at when you're going out of the store, what you saw.
And give it all to us, the whole thing.
OK, you want me to start when I was at the store and hearing the commotion?
OK, well, during that period of time, my friend and I was [sic] to Mr. Witterson's store, who was white. I don't know why we were there, but we were there, and then we heard all this commotion coming down the street. We just, we wanted to go out and see what it was. And at that time they were dragging him down the street to this particular tree, and you could hear all the noise they were keeping, hollering and hoofing and going on. You could hear it for at least a mile away. And they hung him up the tree, I guess he was up there maybe about three minutes, and then they took him down, hooked him behind the car again, and then drove back up town with them hollering and hoofing behind them.
Then what'd they do to him?
That's when they took him up and bur—started burning him up, and setting him on fire.
But you didn't see that part.
Yep, I don't—
—had with that, tell me about how you felt?
Well after this was over and seeing the boy, George Armwood in the condition he was, basically in my body I felt like I would like to do somebody else the same way, I like, revenge, revenge I was after right away. But then in our position, you know, there was only so much that we could do, us being boys. And you want me to say, and then when I, we told our daddy that what we had seen and he told us to shut up because he was afraid that someone, you know, it would get out that we saw it, and afraid that they might do something to us.
Can you, can you tell us one more time, I know we're going over the same ground, but we're going to keep trying. Tell me again about the condition of the body when you saw it, about the next day going to wherever it was, the lumber yard or wherever it was, and what you saw. And you can tell me in detail what you saw, just what the condition of the body was—
Take six, take six.
And even though there's a lady here it's OK, just go, go through it, what you remember.
As far as the body was concerned when we went back to look at it the next day, it was burnt very bad, his ears was missing, his penis was missing, and the body looked terrible, really terrible. It had been burnt quite a bit. I don't know how much fire they had used, but it was enough to burn him. But you could still recognize him.
How'd it make you feel inside, in your stomach?
Oh, it feels like you wanted to vomit. It was pitiful.
OK, can you do that again? Tell us that again, and go all the way through to describing what happened to him, and then that it made you feel like you wanted to vomit.
When I went to see him the next day?
Yeah. So start there.
OK, when we went to see him the next day, he was very, he was burnt very, very bad.
And his ears was missing, his penis was missing, and it just made you feel like you wanted to vomit.
** It was just, it was a terrible sight to see.
Was that airplane over that?
OK, I'm sorry.
We're going to do it again slowly.
Do it slowly, take your time, and also tell me why you went? You said you went to see him the next day almost like you were going to pay him a visit. So, tell me why you went over there, and then when you went over there, what you saw and how it made you feel?
And also you said that you walked like four, you think you walked about four miles to see him. Start—
Well, I don't know what I [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] because I don't know whether I was in town at my father's store, I think that's where I was-
—in my father's store, and that's when the people was in town.
Oh, OK. So anyways, start at what, where, you know, what, why you went? And then, take it slow.
Nice and loud.
The next day, we knew, why people going over there [sic] where they had burnt him. We wanted to go over there to see what had happened, more or less curiosity than anything else, and which we did. Same boy that Joe and I both, we went over to see what had happened to him. And that's what we saw, was
the badly burnt body,
** the ears missing, his penis missing, and it was a terrible sight to see,
** and it made you feel sick in the stomach.
OK, cut, cut.
[ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]
OK. OK, don't look there.
I know, I'm sorry. I, after they had done hung him up the tree, and put him behind the car and started back up town, Mr. Whitterson made us come in. He wanted us to come in because he didn't know what they might do to us, you know, if they found that we had seen it. Then the next day when we told our father, told my father, what we had seen, he told us to shut up because he was afraid that word would get out that we had seen it and then they would do something to us.
Seventeen, thirty-eight, ten.
So we're ready?
Yeah, go ahead.
OK, so go ahead and talk about the relationship.
Well the relationship between the blacks and the whites around here during that period of time, it wasn't all that bad. As I said before, you had your good ones, white ones, and you had your bad white ones. Most of them were farmers, and most the blacks worked on the farms at that time, and those that didn't had little truck farms of their own. And they looked out for, for the people that were working for them, they always looked out for them. The reason I said that, you know, you knew your place, and we had movers around here we had to go upstairs in the balcony, and that's where we knew we had to go in order for us to get moving. So that wasn't any problem until later years when the blacks got tired of going upstairs so they decided they wanted to go downstairs too. But we didn't have that much of a problem with that, them changing that. So really it wasn't bad as far as relationship was concerned, with the people around here. I, I guess, you know, like I said, people knew their place, and that's what they did.
I can't talk loud, can I?