October 29th, 1869
White Mob Kidnaps and Whips Black Georgia Legislator for Promoting Equal Rights
Abram Colby was born into slavery in Greene County, Georgia, in approximately 1817. The son of an enslaved black woman and a white landowner, Colby was emancipated 15 years before the end of American slavery and worked tirelessly to organize freed slaves following the Civil War. A Radical Republican, Colby was elected to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives during Reconstruction. His impassioned advocacy for black civil rights earned him the attention of the local Ku Klux Klan, a terrorist organization founded in 1865 to resist Reconstruction and restore white supremacy through targeted violence against black people and their white political allies.
Klansmen attacked and brutally whipped 52-year-old Abram Colby on October 29, 1869. Three years later, when called to Washington, DC, to testify about the assault before a Congressional committee investigating reports of racial violence in the South, Colby bravely identified his attackers as some of the “first class men in our town. One is a lawyer, one a doctor, and some are farmers.” Shortly before the attack, Colby explained, the men had tried to bribe him to change parties or give up his office. Colby refused to do either and days later they returned:
On October 29. 1869, [the Klansmen] broke my door open, took me out of bed, took me to the woods and whipped me three hours or more and left me for dead. They said to me, “Do you think you will ever vote another damned Radical ticket?” I said, “If there was an election tomorrow, I would vote the Radical ticket.” They set in and whipped me a thousand licks more, with sticks and straps that had buckles on the ends of them.
Colby told the committee that the attack had “broken something inside of [him],” and that the Klan’s continued harassment and violent assaults had forced him to abandon his re-election campaign. Colby testified most emotionally about the attack’s impact on his daughter, who was home when the Klansmen seized him to be whipped: “My little daughter begged them not to carry me away. They drew up a gun and actually frightened her to death. She never got over it until she died. That was the part that grieves me the most.”