10,000-20,000 Whites

Public Executions Bring Out the People

As part of the Death Penalty Study, researchers explored people's views toward public executions. The last public execution in the U.S. occurred in 1936 in Owensboro, Kentucky. Rainey Bethea, a black man in his 20s, was hanged for raping a white woman in her 70s. The spectacle drew a crowd of 10,000-20,000 white men, women, and children to witness the 5 a.m. execution. Reports indicated that many were intoxicated.


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