Josina Guess is a writer and editor with more than 20 years experience in non-profit, faith-based, arts and cross-cultural communication in urban and rural settings. She is the 2022 recipient of The Nancy and Randall Burkett Award for Research in Black Print Culture.
The Nancy and Randall Burkett Award for Research in Black Print Culture allowed me time to look into the cultural context and reporting of the lynching of a man named Linton (also Lint or Lent) Shaw on April 28, 1936, in Colbert, Georgia. I started researching Lint Shaw’s lynching because he was killed less than 10 miles from where I live. His lynching was never solved even though photographs with easily identifiable faces were taken the morning of the crime. Shaw’s lynching fits into my larger ongoing narrative nonfiction project about parenting, migration, farming, and racism in the rural south.
The Rose Library does not have Lint Shaw’s lynching photo, but it does have the Atlanta Daily World records. The Atlanta Daily World, the first successful syndicated Black daily newspaper, played a unique role in showing Shaw’s humanity. While he was a patient at Grady Hospital, healing from police-inflicted gunshot wounds, the ADW published a rare interview, including a studio portrait of Shaw. Before his wounds were healed, Shaw was transported back to Madison County for his scheduled trial. Faced by a lynch mob at Danielsville Jail, he was transferred to a small jail in Royston, Georgia, on April 27th. Around midnight, a mob kidnapped Shaw from Royston and killed him within earshot of his home in Colbert, Georgia.
Two reporters from the Atlanta Daily World, Robert M. Ratcliffe and William Fowlkes, Jr. came to Colbert, Georgia, the morning of his scheduled trial. Instead, they were firsthand witnesses at the scene of the crime. They visited Shaw’s home and interviewed his widow and their eleven children. The paper reported on what the crime scene looked like and they published intimate family portraits, and a letter from his widow, Georgia Shaw, and advertised a fundraiser for the bereaved family. One of my research goals was to look through the records of the Atlanta Daily World to get a better sense of the publication’s culture in the 1930s and to see if I could find any mention of Shaw in their records. A personal tragedy in the newspaper’s history, some old sermons, and an expense report shed some interesting light on the story.
Shaw was lynched in 1936, just two years after the paper’s founder W.A. Scott had been killed by an assassin’s bullet. While reading through the history of the Atlanta Daily World, I learned that the paper’s original editor, W.A. Scott, was shot in the back while taking out the trash one winter evening. He died on February 7, 1934, and his murder was never solved. C.A. Scott, W.A.’s little brother became the editor of the paper. In C.A.’s correspondence, I found a few hand-written sermons that mention connections between truth-telling and lynching. The sermons were among papers from the early 1930s, but there was no name associated with them. The author of these yellowed, handwritten sermons may be lost to history. But C.A. Scott held onto them. Did they give him faith and courage? One paper read:
Jesus was a man that told the truth. You are going to be hated, if you tell the truth, but tell it anyhow.
It may not be the best thing to tell the whole truth at all times, but whatever you tell, let it be the truth.
Another one said:
If they sought to kill Jesus for telling the truth, they will seek you too.
In the last place: The poet says “Truth crush[ed] to ground will rise again.”
Consider the following:
- If the Devil had told Eve the truth, Adam would have never been urged to sin.
- If the truth was told about lynching, we wouldn’t have so many. All you hear isn’t true about these men that are lynched
These sermons spoke about the misinformation being spread about lynching victims and the very real risks of being a truth-teller and a journalist, especially a Black journalist in the South. The Atlanta Daily World was not as outspoken as northern Black papers. C.A. Scott was much more conservative than his brother and the paper, under his leadership became even more conservative and Republican during the civil rights movement. But in their early years, the Atlanta Daily World played a role in honoring the humanity of lynching victims and their families amidst a mainstream Southern journalistic culture that often celebrated lynching and villainized victims.
In 1936, Robert M. Ratcliffe and William Fowlkes, Jr., two young reporters from Tennessee were staff reporters for the Atlanta Daily World who covered Shaw’s story. From an oral history in the Gary Pomerantz papers, I learned more about Fowlkes and his friendship with Robert Ratcliffe. Fowlkes graduated magna cum laude from Tennessee State in 1935 with a major in History. He saw a copy of the Atlanta Daily World in a Tennessee library and wanted to move to Atlanta to work for them, but his mother insisted that he stay close to home because his sister was very sick. After his sister died in early 1936, Fowlkes joined the Atlanta Daily World team. Ratcliffe was also from Tennessee and a 1932 graduate of LeMoyne College, he started at the World a little before Fowlkes.
On April 28, 1936, Ratcliffe and Fowlkes interviewed people in Colbert within hours of Shaw’s killing. Ratcliffe was reimbursed $2.35 for “Expense Lint Shaw coverage.” and “refund of expense to Col.” Gas was around 19 cents a gallon at that time. The expenses were not itemized. Could the 2.35 have been for the drive from Atlanta to Colbert and film for the photos the World published of Shaw’s house, widow, and children?
 Father of 11 Denies Choking” finish citation.
 Atlanta Daily World, Inc records need to cite
 Atlanta Daily World, Inc records, correspondence C.A. Scott
 Gary M. Pomerantz papers Subseries 1.1 Interview transcripts, 1991-1996 Fowlkes, William, 1992. Box 3 Folder 2
 “The Reminiscences of Robert Ratcliffe” Black Journalists Oral History Project Columbia University Robert Ratcliffe Interview 1971.
 Atlanta Daily World records, 1931-1996 Manuscript Collection No. 1092 OBV137 and