The Williamsburg Case

February 22, 1902


A black man is falsely accused and arrested for frightening and assaulting a white girl. A third party concludes that this man could not possibly have been present there at that time, and the hat found on the scene did not belong to him, so he is set free.


William Johnson, colored was arrested Feb’y 11, 1902 at Williamsburg, Va. upon the charge of attempted criminal assault.
The white girl was of poor parentage and was on her way at about 6:30 o’clock in the morning to the knitting mill.
She said the colored boy spoke to her as she was going down the street. He told her to wait and go with him. He did not touch her or offer any indignity.
She claimed to have been greatly frightened and ran into a nearby house.
The boy ran too. Willie Badkin, white ran up to the colored youth and kicked him. The boy ran off, dropping his hat as he did so.
On this testimony William Johnson was arrested, and carried before Badkins, the white man who promptly identified him.
This would seem to be conclusive evidence but as is often the case in the Southland, a white lady and gentleman testified that at the time Johnson was alleged to have insulted the white girl he was in his room.
Moreover the hat which was found did not belong to Johnson. This disposed of the case and Johnson was released. In a moment of excitement there was great danger of having a life forfeited for a crime which had never been committed.
Further investigation also proved that the attempt had been made to criminally assault the white girl.
This is another strong reason for the supremacy of the law. There can be no excuse for the lynching of the colored man in the Southland upon any charge, for white juries are generally ready to legally execute him, be he guilty or indecent and whether the crime be heinous or trivial.
Many an innocent colored man has been forced to accept penitentiary punishment in preference to suffering death at the hands of a mob.
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Lower Left Quadrant

Contributed By

Brooke Royer


“The Williamsburg Case,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed April 23, 2024,