FEBRUARY 22, 1898
Frazier Baker, the first Black postmaster of the small town of Lake City, South Carolina, and his baby daughter, Julia, were killed, and his wife and three other daughters were injured when a lynch mob attacked.
When President William McKinley appointed Baker the previous year, local whites began to attack Baker’s abilities. Postal inspectors determined the accusations were unfounded, but that didn’t halt those determined to destroy him. Hundreds of whites set fire to the post office, where the Bakers lived, and reportedly fired up to 100 bullets into their home.
Outraged citizens in town wrote a resolution describing the attack and 25 years of “lawlessness” and “bloody butchery” in the area. Crusading journalist Ida B. Wells wrote the White House about the attack, noting that the family was now in the Black hospital in Charleston “and when they recover sufficiently to be discharged, they) have no dollar with which to buy food, shelter or raiment.
McKinley ordered an investigation that led to charges against 13 men, but no one was ever convicted. The family left South Carolina for Boston, and later that year, the first nationwide civil rights organization in the U.S., the National Afro-American Council, was formed. In 2019, the Lake City post office was renamed to honor Frazier Baker. “We, as a family, are glad that the recognition of this painful event finally happened,” his great-niece, Dr. Fostenia Baker said. “It’s long overdue.”