Grief and a haunting unreality permeate this photo. The corpse of Laura Nelson retains an indissoluble femininity despite the horror inflicted upon it. Specterlike, she seems to float - thistledown light and implausibly still.
For many African Americans, Oklahoma was a destination of hope, where they could prosper without the laws in southern states that codified racism and repression. What was to be a promised land proved to be a great disillusionment.District Judge Caruthers convened a grand jury in June 1911 to investigate the lynching of the Negro woman and her son. In his instructions to the jury, he said, "The people of the state have said by recently adopted constitutional provision that the race to which the unfortunate victims belonged should in large measure be divorced from participation in our political contests, because of their known racial inferiority and their dependent credulity, which very characteristic made them the mere tool of the designing and cunning. It is well known that I heartily concur in this constitutional provision of the people's will. The more then does the duty devolve upon us of a superior race and of greater intelligence to protect this weaker race from unjustifiable and lawless attacks."