Rosa Lee Ingram

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Rosa Lee Ingram
Cropped IngramMothersDay.png
Rosa Lee Ingram

Rose Lee Ingram (died 1980) was an African American sharecropper and widowed mother of 12 children, who was at the center of one of the most explosive capital punishment cases in US history.[1] In the 1940s, she became an icon for the civil rights and social justice movement.[2]


Ingram farmed adjoining lots with white sharecropper John Ed Stratford. Ingram bred Stratford’s livestock. On November 4, 1947, Stratford confronted Ingram, accusing her of allowing her livestock to roam freely on his land. When Ingram reminded Stratford that both the livestock and the land were owned by their landlord, he struck her with a gun.[3] Several of Mrs. Ingram’s sons came to her defense, and Stratford was killed. Mrs. Ingram, along with her sons Charles (age 17), Wallace (age 16), Sammie Lee (age 14), and James (age 12) were arrested.[4] James was eventually released.[5]

Although the prosecution suggested that the confrontation between Stratford and Ingram owed to a conflict over livestock, later accounts suggested that Stratford was enraged because Ingram had repeatedly objected to his sexual harassment of her.[6] Their defense argued that Ingrams’ sons killed Stratford in self-defense.[7] The trial lasted just one day and was held January 26, 1948 in Ellaville, Georgia. The judge presiding over the case was Judge W M Harper. The attorney representing Mrs. Ingram (and appointed to her the morning of the trial) was S Hawkins Dyke.[8]

According to Charles H Martin, the release of Charles Ingram in his trial the following day came due to insufficient evidence “...underscored the circumstantial nature of the evidence against his mother and brothers.” [8]

Response to Death Sentences[edit]

The sentencing of Ingram and her two sons to die in the electric chair was handed down by an all-white jury on February 7, 1948. When their executions were scheduled for February 27, 1948, less than three weeks later, the country erupted in protests against the trial, which had been conducted in haste and secrecy, and the sentences.[9] In response to national protests led by Sojourners for Truth and Justice, their sentences were commuted to life in April 1948.[10]

A second wave of protests ensued after the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the Ingrams’ life sentences.[7] Despite continued protests from Civil Rights organizations on the basis of the extenuating circumstances (e.g. that Mr. Stratford had sexually assaulted Ingram and her children were responding in self-defense), in 1952, the Georgia pardon and parole board refused to free Ingram and her two sons.[11] When Sojourners for Truth and Justice came to visit Georgia governor Herman Talmadge in January 1953 to plead for the Ingrams’ release, they were turned away by the governor’s wife, who told them the governor was out hunting.[12] In 1955, the Ingrams were again denied parole. The State Board gave no reason for denying parole.[13]

Following Ingram's release from prison in 1959, Ingram lived in Atlanta, Georgia until her death.[14]

Civil Rights Impact of the Case[edit]

The Ingrams were defended by the Civil Rights Congress, as well as Sojourners for Truth and Justice. As historian Erik S. McDuffie notes, the case galvanized black left feminists, highlighting the specific forms of oppression experienced by poor black women, as well as foregrounding the history of white men’s sexual violence against black women. According to McDuffie, “Ingram’s case represented in glaring terms the interlocking systems of oppression suffered by African American women: the painful memories of and the continued day-to-day sexual violence committed against black women’s bodies by white men, the lack of protection for and the disrespect of black motherhood, the economic exploitation of black working-class women, and the disenfranchisement of black women in the Jim Crow South.”[15] Black progressive women were the leaders of the global campaign to free the Ingrams.[15][16]


  1. ^ Chandler, D.L. "Rosa Ingram, Teen Sons Sentenced To Electric Chair On This Day In 1948". Newsone. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  2. ^ Reyburn, Scott; Pogrebin, Robin (2019-11-15). "For Auctions, It's 'No Froth,' but 'Steady.' That's the New Normal". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  3. ^ "Grant Execution to Stay to Mother, Two Sons". The Chicago Defender. February 28, 1948.
  4. ^ Marin, Charles H. "Race, Gender, and Southern Justice: The Rosa Lee Ingram Case". JSTOR 844758. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  5. ^ Walligora-Davis, Nicole. "African Americans and Empire". Missing or empty |url= (help)
  6. ^ "Grant Execution to Stay to Mother". The Chicago Defender. March 13, 1948.
  7. ^ a b "Ingram Life Sentences Meet Storm of Protest". The Chicago Defender. July 24, 1948.
  8. ^ a b Martin, Charles H. "Race, Gender, and Southern Justice: The Rosa Lee Ingram Case". Missing or empty |url= (help)
  9. ^ "Mother, Teen Age Sons to Die in Electric Chair: Protests Hit Verdict in Farm Killing". The Chicago Defender. February 7, 1948.
  10. ^ "West Coast NAACP Backs Ingram Case". The Chicago Defender. April 24, 1948.
  11. ^ "Turn Down Ingram Plea for Pardon". The Chicago Defender. February 9, 1952.
  12. ^ "Bar Friends of Ingram in Georgia". The Chicago Defender. January 3, 1953.
  13. ^ "Deny Parole to the Ingrams". The Chicago Defender. September 3, 1955.
  14. ^ Lisby, Gregory C. "Notable Georgia Criminal Trials". Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  15. ^ a b "A "New Freedom Movement of Negro Women": Sojourning for Truth, Justice, and Human Rights during the Early Cold War".
  16. ^ "Race, Gender, and Southern Justice: The Rosa Lee Ingram Case". JSTOR 844758. Missing or empty |url= (help)