booker t. washington portrait

A Miscarriage of Justice

by James Anderson, The New York Amsterdam News
November 11, 1911

An Editorial:

New York City—The acquittal by Justices Moss and Zeller—with Justice O'Keefe vigorously dissenting—of Henry Ulrich, the brutal assailant of Booker T. Washington last March 19, was an outrageous miscarriage of justice. It is but another evidence of the uneven handed justice meted out to colored citizens by courts of law North as well as South.

No man could have sat through the trial of the Eleventh Avenue gang leader, accused dog thief and admitted wife and child deserter, have heard the record of the miserable wretch completely exposed in court, then have seen his word as to the act of assault taken against that of the Christian peer of any man now living—because the Christian happened to be colored and the felon with his judges White—and not felt that the tribunal of American law is reeling with rank race prejudice. No Fiji Islander could have been present, heard the culprit confess using his fists, pursuing his victim, heard a police officer sworn to uphold the law tell of the pursuit by the drunken dog dealer, and the bloody, battered condition of his victim, hear a disinterested citizen, of the same color as the defendant, tell of the repeated cowardly clubbing, even while his unarmed victim was upon the ground, and then have conscientiously or legally decided that the dastardly attack was not an assault.

No Turk or cowboy could have been so cruel or conscienceless as not to have given the full penalty of his condemnation to so base a bully. No Congolese or Kaffir would have been so unpatriotic as not to have exacted extreme punishment from one of his race's rounders when that rounder had assaulted one of his nation's leading lights. Justice Zeller from the outset obviously determined against his colored complainant was primarily responsible, we believe, for this great travesty on justice. It was his pugnacious, persistent domination that carried the vacillating Presiding Justice Moss to the side of grave error and injustice.

Let the colored people always remember Justices Zeller and Moss whenever hereafter they would seek judicial or political preferment. With an equal eternal gratitude must the Black man of America remember the fair and firm Justice O'Keefe, who alone of the three, had the courage of his convictions. Nor should colored citizens forget the courtesy of the present District Attorney's office, and especially the unprejudiced, unswerving Assistant District Attorney Smith, who blazed out in diamond light the guilt of the dog dealer and his putrid paramour.

Dr. Washington, however, has earned as never before the approval of every member of race. White men and colored men of power and prominence had brought a tremendous pressure upon him to quit the case, to refuse to prosecute his assailant on the grounds of his position and race harmony. But, listening to the voices of the millions of his race; he never faltered in the entire ordeal of the tedious prosecution.

Today as never before he has the love and confidence of his race.

He did not have the case hushed up. Without malice he insisted upon the court of public knowledge seeing its every detail. He comes away with his Christian character unsullied, the courageous moral leader of his people. Today as never before he has the love and confidence of his race. The acquittal of Ulrich was a monstrous injustice. The vindication of Dr. Washington through the complete publicity of the trial is a source of great satisfaction.

James Anderson
New York Amsterdam News, Nov. 11, 1911, #8.