Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

January 30, 1926

On January 30, 1926, the Chicago Defender reported on a domestic incident in St. Louis. Mary Lindsey, the paper reported, “gave place unto her throwing boiling water, in which she had placed red pepper and a half a can of lye, upon her husband, Albert, 35, who was asleep in his bed.” The husband later died, and Mary Lindsey told police that “she committed the crime to avenge the cruelties inflicted on her by her husband” (click to view PDF). Crime stories were prevalent in black newspapers (and white papers) in this era, but this genre of “woman kills” stories is particularly troubling. When I read “in the argument which followed he beat and kicked her,” I try to imagine the days, months, and years leading up to Mary and Albert Lindsey becoming newsworthy and wonder what happened to Mary Lindsey after this killing.  

Other stories convey the end of lives with even fewer words. On January 30, 1932, the Defender reported on Alice Morton, who drank Lysol to escape “domestic trouble.”  

The same day the paper included a “Woman Kills Man” story from New Orleans that ran just over a dozen words: “Henry Jones was stabbed fatally Monday when he engaged in an altercation with Eloise Robertson.”  

What did readers make of these stories? Some likely found these stories of murderous women intriguing, but I suspect that many readers, too many readers, could recognize the everyday acts of violence that preceded these news stories.  

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