In June 1820 a Savannah slave named George Flyming was convicted by a jury of white male freeholders of attempting to rape a white girl, fourteen-year-old Eliza Hand. The three justices of Chatham County Inferior Court overseeing the case duly sentenced Flyming to hang by the neck until he was dead. On the surface this conviction would have seemed unproblematic to citizens in a slave society. The system of slavery brutalized and oppressed bondpeople in part to ensure their docility, those who refused to accept their lot and struck back against white authority, could expect swift and dire retribution. The legal process was stacked heavily against African American defendants in the South. Slaves and free blacks were unable to speak in their own defence, or summon witnesses from the black community. As a male slave, found guilty of attempting to perpetrate a rape on a white female, Flyming would almost certainly have known that a conviction would spell death. Yet the case of George Flyming is not so straightforward. Indeed the lengths to which many local citizens went in attempting to save George's life require further investigation
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