The public hanging of Rainey Bethea for the rape and murder of an elderly woman sparked controversy in the nation which ultimately led to the discontinuation of public executions in the U.S. Approximately 20,000 people were in attendance, which reporters called a “Roman holiday;” the sheriff overlooking the hanging was a woman; the condemned was a black man and the victim a white woman; the man selected to pull the trigger to end Bethea’s life arrived drunk and remained aloof to his cue to perform his duty; the combination of which prompted the country to end public executions nation-wide.

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