Primary Resource

Letter from Florence A. Bishop to Jonathan A. Bishop (July 14, 1898)

In this letter to her husband, Jonathan A. Bishop, dated July 14, 1898, Florence A. Bishop relates the latest news from Charlottesville, including the recent lynching of John Henry James, an African American man accused of sexual assault. A policeman at the University of Virginia, Jonathan Bishop was then serving as a sergeant in the 3rd Virginia Volunteer Regiment, stationed at Camp Alger, near Falls Church.

Transcription from Original

University of Va

July 14th–98

My Dear Al,

I intended to have written before now, but I have been so upset that my head has seemed to have been flying in the air. I tell you old boy there has been a "hot-time" in this town! I suppose you have read it in the papers before now That Negro who used to sell "Hokey-pokey" ice cream, committed a rape upon one of the youngest of "Hotops" daughters. They sent him to Staunton in the night to escape the mob—and were bringing him back next morning when the mob found it out—but they went up to Warner Woods crossing one of them dressed in womans clothes signaled the Train & stopped it & before any body knew what they even wanted had him swinging from that tree that stands near the blacksmith shop—riddled, the whole town negroes & white rushed up there and we expected to have a fight but the whites were in a perfect frenzy—and I believe if it had commenced—there would have been a battle equal to what is going on in Cuba—but the black devils soon slunk out of sight when they smelt the "brimstone in the air." The Girl is very low, I tried to get a paper but could not they did not print the worst details, out of respect and sympathy for the family. You see I told you that the South needed her men to look after the black devils that the "North "pitied" so much—and let loose upon us. Therefore it behooves the Virginia men to be on their guard at all times. This act was done not by a tramp, but by one of those whom we have been taxed to educate, & give the rights of a white man & now of course he wanted a white woman. They killed him too quick, they ought to have dragged him up and down the street as an example & a foretaste of what we had for the balance; You boys keep away from them. I wish every one of them was food for the sharks. I feel like fighting something or "somebody"—myself—turn which way I will I am confronted by brutes in some form, untill I feel like giving everything that comes near me the "cornstalk swipe." Well I have told you all the news, I hope you are doing all right—not like the "craw-fish" going backwards, because if you have been doing anything that you ought not to have done, & have left undone those which you should have done you'd better not venter near me because I am in full "war paint" & ready for the charge & would light onto you as soon as anything else. Don't keep too many friends near you, thats why you have so small a bank account, Do what is right & honest, but look out for no' one, it is late it is true for me to begin, but I am going to set about it myself for I know that when you have nothing, nobody will force anything on you, & you ought to have found out by this time that it is a "bitter pill" to have to be dependant or under your inferiors & should make you strive to take advantage of every & all opportunities to elevate & advance your interests & to also help the weak ones. I had hoped to have been free of our entanglements by this time & you in a little business of your own—but now that you are "in it" you must try and "give satisfaction" & take care of what you are "sweating" for. The weather has been so cool that I can stir around now, & I feel better & I manage to keep "again" but I don't know what I should do if those "Disneys" were here to "charge" me every time I showed my face at the door! Tell "Tom" had had better get me to go down and look after them. I am fraid the "Jews" won't be able to keep their feast if they depend upon him, to furnish "duck." You said you would start your box with your clothes soon, be particular Al, some suspicious body might think you are sending something you ought not, you know what I mean. You go to Washington so often you have an opportunity there, to get cheap bargains, you could get anything you wished & send from there. I don't want you to do anything on my account which might in any way get you into trouble, there are plenty near you, who would be glad to have some fault to find with you, so take care of yourself in all things. But if you have any postage stamps than you need you can just give me your "piece-dadg [?]." I have told you all that I know, so I will close with the "command"—look out for no/(one)—be careful in all things, write whenever you have time & believe me to be as every your truest friend & loving wife

Florence A. Bishop