A dispute that started with boys playing marbles escalated into a famous lynching that sparked a trailblazing effort by Ida Wells to document what was going on in the south: the extra-judicial execution of anyone who threatened the social order. Not everyone killed was black, but the many public displays of the dark-skinned dead were meant to send a message. The tactic served to frighten away those blacks who might try to compete with whites or attempt to cross the racial divide. Ida Wells found herself burnt out of her Memphis newspaper office when she suggested some sexual contact between whites and blacks was consensual.
An alleged sexual offense was often the reason given for murder by a mob without benefit of trial.