The U.S. Postal Service is considering honoring an African American postmaster in a small South Carolina Town who was lynched in the late 19th Century, according to published reports.
The big question is what took the USPS so long.
The U.S. Post Office named Frazier Baker, a schoolteacher in Lake City, SC, the local postmaster, a move that enraged portions of the local white population. Almost immediately, a number of them led a campaign to oust him. Reportedly, some felt having African American men in such powerful positions might spur them to pursue white women. Horrors!
Granted McKinley appointed Ba as part of a political patronage scheme aimed at keeping African Americans allied to the Republican Party in the years after the Civil War. Boy, how some things change over time.
The next year, after postal authorities in Washington, DC kept Baker in his job an angry white mob set fire to his house—which doubled as the local post office—and killed both him and his daughter Julia. Other members of his family escaped.
This Story is ironic considering that African Americans currently constitute about 20 percent of the USPS’s total workforce and have contributed to the development and operation of the postal service—and how much the USPS has helped them move into the middle class.
But historically that was not always so. In fact, the history of African Americans and mail delivery actually began during slavery and black postal carriers often faced a lot of discrimination as did the majority of the black population as the National Postal Museum documents https://postalmuseum.si.edu/AfricanAmericanHistory/index.html.
Frazier Baker had been appointed postmaster of Lake City in 1897, but local whites objected and had undertook a campaign to force his removal. When these efforts failed to dislodge Baker, a mob attacked him and his family at night t their house, which also served as the post office.
More than a year later, 11 white men were arraigned in federal court in Charleston, but a divided jury resulted in a mistrial. No one was ever charged in the killings.
Those killings drew widespread condemnation from many sources including from famed muckraking journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett who noted that the lynchers knew full well that Baker had committed no crime.
The Baker lynching story coincided with that of the sinking of the USS Maine, which led to the Spanish American War. Nevertheless some white South Carolina newspapers condemned the killings as “dastardly.”
But at least one newspaper blamed the McKinley administration for forcefully interfering with the state of South Carolina and meddling in its affairs.
Maybe you could say coming out with such a stamp of Baker would constitute a firm acknowledgement of the 1898 incident. With all the racism that continues to plague this country very least the USPS could do would be to issue this commemorative stamp even though it’ll probably be forgotten. After all, who remembers the designs on postage stamps?