The First Waco Horror: the Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP, is the story of the public torture and murder of Jesse Washington, a 17-year old retarded black boy, on the town square of Waco, Texas, in 1916, before an audience of 10,000 screaming, cheering spectators and the efforts of the fledgling NAACP to investigate, dramatize and publicize the event in order to expose the reality of the crime of lynching and force the nation to see it for what it was.
The book sets the scene by painting a picture of Waco, enamored with an image of itself as "the Athens of Texas," but with an ugly, persistent history of violence. The book then describes the brave souls who founded the NAACP in 1909, and tells the story of women's suffrage activist Elisabeth Freeman who was hired to go to Waco and investigate the Washington lynching. Freeman, clever, courageous and relentless, used all of her skills and wiles to get the facts and identify the lynch mob leaders. W. E. B. Du Bois, brilliant editor of the NAACP's magazine, then told the story of the Waco Horror to the world.
The story of the Waco Horror begins with the discovery of a body. Just about sundown on the evening of Monday, May 8, 1916, near the town of Robinson, eight miles south of Waco, twenty-one-year-old Ruby Fryer and her brother, fourteen-year-old George Fryer Jr., returned home from chopping cotton on the family's two hundred acre farm. In the heavy heat and quiet of the late afternoon, they noticed that their mother, Lucy Fryer, was not in the house as usual. Just as George was going out to look for her, Ruby peered through the window and saw Lucy lying in a pool of blood in the doorway of the seed house, about thirty steps away. A neighbor, Cris Simon, had been away from home all day and had just come back through the big gate at the main road when he heard Ruby and George screaming and crying over their mother's body. It was probably Simon who ran for George Fryer Sr., who had been working in a different part of the field from the children, about a mile from the house. The Waco Times Herald reported that when George Fryer Sr. learned that his wife was dead, he "was overcome."....
Lucy Fryer lay in the doorway of the seed house "almost brained and criminally assaulted." Her skull had been bashed in at several points and her clothing was disheveled. Dr. J. H. Maynard examined her and reported at the trial that "a quantity of brain had escaped from the cranial vault" and at least two of the six wounds on her head, made with a heavy, blunt instrument, could have killed her.