APPLETON, WIS. — James Cameron, the sole survivor of a 1930 lynching and the founder of the Black Holocaust Museum, will be the subject of a Black History Month presentation at Lawrence University.
Sandra Adell, professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, presents “The Life and Legacy of Dr. James Cameron,” Monday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. in Lawrence’s Science Hall 102.
As a 16 year old, Cameron narrowly escaped one of the most infamous lynchings in the nation’s history after he and two acquaintances were arrested, accused of robbing and killing a white man and raping his girl friend in Marion, Ind. Shortly after their arrest, the three men were dragged from jail by a lynch mob. While the other two young men were hanged from a tree in front of the courthouse, Cameron, with noose around his neck, was spared when a voice in the crowd cried out he had nothing to do with killing or raping anyone.
Cameron, who kept a piece of the rope that had scarred his neck, was later sentenced to five years in prison for robbery. In 1993, Marion city officials pardoned Cameron, issued a formal apology and presented him a key to the city.
His near-death experience and a trip to Israel’s Jewish Holocaust Museum inspired Cameron to create the Black Holocaust Museum, which chronicles the history of lynchings in America. After nine years of work and $5,000 of his own money, Cameron opened the museum on June 19, 1988 in Milwaukee.
Cameron recounted the events of his hallowing experience in his 1982 memoir “A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story.” The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recognized Cameron with an honorary degree in 1999. He passed away at the age of 92 in 2006.
Adell, a scholar of black literature, has taught in the UW Afro-American Studies department since 1989. She recently edited a revised edition of “A Time of Terror” that is under review at the University of Wisconsin Press and was the volume editor of the “Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Culture: African American Culture.” She also is the author of the 2002 book “Literary Masters: Toni Morrision.”