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James Cameron, founder of America’s Black Holocaust Museum - dead at 92

The man was nearly lynched when he was about 16 years old by a group of other 16 year old boys. 

“They began to chant for me like a football player, ’We want Cameron, we want Cameron,” he recalled in a 2003 interview with The Associated Press. “ I could feel the blood in my body just freezing up.”

He witnessed two of his friends get beaten to death as he waited in jail for his turn to die.  The state of Indiana granted him a pardon and a public apology 62 years after his conviction.

Founder - Dr. James Cameron

James Cameron is founder of America’s Black Holocaust Museum and America’s only living survivor of a lynching. In August, 1930 when Cameron was 16 years old, he was falsely accused of participating in the murder of a young white man in Marion, Indiana.

As a result, Cameron witnessed a mob of 15,000 people beat and lynch his two friends.Miraculously, Cameron survived his severe beating and attempted lynching; however, he was immediately sentenced to four years in the state prison for accessory before the fact to manslaughter. Ironically, no one was ever accused, arrested or charged with the murder of Cameron’s teenage friends, nor for the beating Cameron suffered.

Because of this personal experience, Cameron dedicated his life to promoting civil rights, racial peace, unity and equality. His commitment is evident by his founding of three NAACP chapters in Indiana during the 1940s, and becoming the first president of the NAACP Madison County Branch in Anderson, Indiana.

Cameron also served as the Indiana State Director of Civil Liberties from 1942-1950. In this capacity Cameron reported to then Governor of Indiana , Henry Shricker on violations of the “equal accommodations” laws to end previously mandated segregation.

During his eight-year tenure, Cameron investigated over 25 incidents of civil rights infractions and faced many acts of violence and death threats for his work.

Repeated threats of violence against his family forced Cameron to relocate to his birth state of Wisconsin in the early 1950s. Cameron continued his work in civil rights by assisting in protests to end segregated housing in the City of Milwaukee.

During the 1960’s, Cameron participated in both marches on Washington; the first with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the second with Dr. King’s widow Coretta and the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

During the seventies Cameron published literally hundreds of articles and booklets detailing civil rights and occurrences of racial injustices.

In 1988, Cameron founded America’s Black Holocaust Museum to document racial injustices suffered by people of African heritage.

Fifteen years later, the Museum continues to grow in prominence and scope, however, of all his prized possessions, Cameron most cherishes a single letter received on February 3,1993, 62 years after his conviction. The letter grants a pardon and public apology from the State of Indiana.

BY EMILY FREDRIX

MILWAUKEE—A man who survived an attempted lynching by a white mob in 1930 and went on to found America’s Black Holocaust Museum was remembered Monday as someone who refused to let a shameful part of U.S. history go untold.

Several hundred mourners attended James Cameron’s funeral, including representatives of the city of Marion, Ind., where he was almost killed as a young man.

‘’His life, humble and just, was so generous. But he had his eye on justice and peace. That was always there,’’ said the Rev. Carl Diederichs, who had known Cameron for years.

Cameron died June 11 at the age of 92. His funeral was held on the anniversary of the museum’s opening, also Juneteenth Day, an anniversary celebration of the slaves being freed in 1865.

The museum, founded in 1988, was considered one of the first of its kind in the country. It used blown-up photos of lynchings and other artifacts to explore the history of the struggles of blacks.

Cameron started it in a small storefront room and later moved it to an abandoned gym. He documented his own experience in a book, A Time of Terror.

Cameron was a teen in 1930 when he and two friends were accused of killing a white man during a robbery and raping the man’s companion in Marion, Ind. A mob broke them out of the local jail and hanged Cameron’s friends.

‘’They began to chant for me like a football player, ‘We want Cameron, we want Cameron,’’’ he recalled. ‘’I could feel the blood in my body just freezing up.’’

‘’I was saved by a miracle,’’ Cameron said. A voice suddenly came from the crowd, saying, “Take this boy back.’’ A man in the crowd proclaimed his innocence and he was spared.


Posted by SPN on 06/20 at 10:44 AM in Racism / Prejudice

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