On August 7, 1930, a large white mob used tear gas, crowbars, and hammers to break into the Grant County jail in Marion, Indiana, to lynch three young black men who had been accused of murdering a white man and assaulting a white woman. Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, both 19 years old, were severely beaten and lynched, and 16-year-old James Cameron was badly beaten but survived.
The brutalized bodies of Mr. Shipp and Mr. Smith were hung from trees in the courthouse yard and kept there for hours as a crowd of white men, women, and children grew by the thousands. Public spectacle lynchings, in which large crowds of white people, often numbering in the thousands, gathered to witness and participate in pre-planned heinous killings that featured prolonged torture, mutiliation, dismemberment and/or burning of the victim, were common during this time. When the sheriff eventually cut the ropes off the corpses, the crowd rushed forward to take parts of the men's bodies as souvenirs.
Photographs of the brutal lynching, featuring members of the crowd proudly posed beneath the hanging corpses, were widely shared, but local authorities claimed no one could be identified. Mounting outside pressure eventually led to the trial of two accused mob leaders, each of whom was found innocent by juries of all white men.
The alleged assault victim, Mary Ball, testified years later that she had not been raped.