The First Waco Horror

The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP


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. The book also describes 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 First Waco Horror 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 depicts 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.