The exact details of what happened to Laurence C. Jones one day in 1917, are uncertain.
But several reports tell that on a certain day, a lynch mob of angry young white men chased the African American school teacher, surrounded him, and threw a noose around his neck.
Jones was an influential and compassionate educator.
He had devoted his entire life to helping the poorest of the poor, the most underprivileged children, wherever he could find them.
In Mississippi, Jones had started a school in a sheep shed to teach poor kids in a county with an 80% illiteracy rate. When he learned about their lack of education, he had taken it upon himself to change that. And he did.
He was also black, during a time when African Americans were lynched for minor offenses.
His “offense” was supposedly inciting a riot, because he was overheard at a speech earlier using words that were misconstrued as calls to take violent action, which they were not.
So on that day, he stood surrounded by this mob, his life in their hands.
And Jones began telling them about his school. Perhaps how needy these kids were, and how he stepped in to change that.
He told them how he has been trying to raise money to pay for school supplies.
He told them that they misunderstood him when he was giving that speech, and he was not trying to incite any kind of riot.
It’s said that he even cracked a couple jokes to lighten the mood.
It worked. All of it. They angry crowd had a change of heart.
And then something truly miraculous happened.
The lynch mob, so moved by Jones’ words, decides not only to let him go…
but to raise money for his school themselves!
“No man can force me to stoop low enough to hate him”.
That’s a quote from Jones.
Jones devoted his entire life to helping others learn, grow, and understand.
By turning an angry mob into donors to his cause, he showed the selfless power of compassion, love, and turning against hate, which would have been difficult, faced with a mob after your life because of who you are.
Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad
Hall of Fame: Laurence C. Jones
Crisis, Volumes 6 – 7
Des Moines Register