Black History Month: Day 17

Today I want people to know the story of Lena Baker. She was wrongfully convicted of murder of her white employer. She was found guilty and executed.

Lena Baker was born on June 8, 1900 in Georgia. She, and her siblings were sharecroppers. By 1940, Baker was a mother of three, and worked as maid. A few years later she began working for Ernest Knight.

Knight was an older white man with a broken leg. He also owned a gristmill.

A sexual relationship developed between Baker and Knight. No one in the community  approved of it. People would often threaten Baker. Knight would often keep Baker imprisoned.

lena-baker-1

Provided by Google

 

An argument broke out between the two. Knight threatened Baker with an iron bar. It led to a physical altercation. The two fought over a pistol when she tried to escape. She shot and killed him. She immediately reported the incident, and says that it was self defense.

Baker’s trial took place on August 14, 1944. She stood before an all white jury. Baker stated in court, that Knight forced her to go out one night. The people in town would threaten her with jail time if she did not stay away from Knight.

Knight would rape and physically abuse her. Even his own son would beat her, telling her to stay away from his father.

When Baker pleaded self defense, the judge, William Worrill, didn’t believe her. Baker was convicted of capital murder by the first trial, and a death sentence automatically followed. She was transferred to Georgia State prison on February 23, 1945.

Her last words were “What I done, I did in self-defense, or I would have been killed myself. Where I was I could not overcome it. God has forgiven me. I have nothing against anyone. I picked cotton for Mr. Pritchett, and he has been good to me. I am ready to go. I am one in the number. I am ready to meet my God. I have a very strong conscience”.

Baker was executed on March 5, 1945. She was pardon 60 years after her murder.

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