Virginia author, journalist, and cultural archaeologist Dale M. Brumfield, along with HJH Media, an imprint of Ingram Publishing, is proud to announce the worldwide release of “Railroaded: the true stories of the first 100 people executed in Virginia’s electric chair.”
From 1908 to 1920, at the height of the Jim Crow era, Virginia used the electric chair as a form of legal lynching. Mobs railroaded mostly young, Black males into minutes-long sham trials, convictions, and speedy electrocutions, sometimes with no legal counsel and for such nonsense crimes as scaring a White school girl.
With the new execution process a closely-guarded secret, the Legislature and the Virginia press agreed that capital punishment and lynching were thus serving the same purpose – “to inspire terror in the heart of the superstitious African.”
Using digital databases, newspapers, court records, and gubernatorial papers, Dale scrupulously researched the forgotten stories of these first 99 men and one woman to face death in the brand-new electric chair. The statistics are startling – racial bias in conviction and sentencing, especially, was pervasive, as 87 were Black and only 13 White. Over 70 of the victims were White. Not one White person was executed for a crime against a Black.
Many of these young men and woman were too young, too uneducated, or too intellectually disabled to realize what was happening to them. One young Black man named Benjamin Baily, sentenced to death in 1913 for the “criminal assault” of a six-year-old White girl, wrote in a letter to his mother, that “I am well,” and “I am about to be electrocuted, whatever that means.” He concluded the letter by telling her that he wished they would “make haste and do it” because “I want to get back home.”
These Black lives simply didn’t matter.
The foreword for “Railroaded” was written by Richmond Public Relations Specialist and VCU Associate Professor Bill Oglesby.
The book is currently available worldwide. Go to Required Reading for ordering information for this and all my books.