BlackFacts Details

James Cameron, Founder Black Holocaust Musem born

James Cameron


America's Black Holocaust Museum, Inc.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

August 7, 1930.

The night James Cameron's life changed forever. A day before, he and two other young Black

men were arrested for the robbery, rape and assault of a White couple in Marion, Indiana. James

is in a cell in the Grant County Jail. There is a lynch mob outside numbering into the thousands.

James is sixteen years old.

The mob comes into the jail and grabs one of men accused, with James, of the crime. He is beaten

unconscious, dragged outside and lynched. The second man is then given the same treatment. The

bodies of these two men, Tom Shipp, 18, and Abraham Smith, 19, hanging from a tree is depicted

in a famous and disturbing photograph. The mob now comes for James. He is beaten and dragged

out to the tree where his friends now hang and the rope is placed around his neck. It is at this

moment that James remembers hearing what he describes as an angelic voice above the crowd

say "Take this boy back, he had nothing to do with any killing or rape." Suddenly the hands that

were beating him are now helping him. The rope is taken from around his neck and the crowd

clears a path for him to walk back to the jail. In interviews he later conducted with people who

were in the crowd, no one remembers hearing any voice. Their reason for why the crowd did not

lynch James: "You were lucky that night." Though James never admitted any guilt in the assault (he

admits that he was there), he served 4 years in prison. The female victim later changed her story

and confirmed that James had no part in the assault.

After he was paroled, James Cameron moved to Milwaukee. During his career, he held several

jobs including table waiter, laborer, construction worker, laundry worker, salesman, janitor, ditch

digger, record shop owner, theater custodian, junkman, newspaper reporter, shoeshine boy and

cardboard-box factory worker. He also organized the Madison County Branch of the NAACP in

Madison and other chapters in Muncie and South Bend, Indiana. Upon retirement, he opened a

rug and upholstery cleaning business.

In 1983, after not being able to find a publisher for the book he started writing in prison, Cameron

took out a second mortgage on his home to publish A Time of Terror, his autobiographical

account of what happened that night in 1930.

The following year, after hearing of plans to build a Jewish Holocaust Museum in Washington,

D.C., James Cameron decided that a Black Holocaust Museum was needed. "It seems that every

group of people have a chance to erect museums and memorials and statues in our country so the

that the world can never forget."

In 1988, he founded America's Black Holocaust Museum, Inc., a non-profit museum

devoted to preserving the history of lynching in the United States and the struggle of Black people

for equality