James Cameron
National Visionary

February 25, 1914 to June 11, 2006
Born in Lacrosse, Wisconsin

Civil Rights Activist, Author, Museum Director Recognized by the U.S. Senate in 2005 as the nation's oldest known survivor of a lynching


Cameron in the the Black
Holocaust Museum
James Cameron epitomized the ability of the human spirit to survive adversity and create positive change in the world.  On August 7, 1930, an angry lynch mob dragged sixteen-year-old Cameron from a Marion, Indiana jail cell, beat him, and placed a rope around his neck.  Cameron and two other boys had been arrested for shooting a white man and raping his fiancé.  When a voice from the crowd proclaimed Cameron’s innocence, he miraculously survived the attacks that had killed his two friends earlier that day.  Cameron spent the rest of his life fighting for social justice and civil liberties.

Cameron, who was born on February 25, 1914 in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, served over four years in prison.  When he was paroled in 1935, Cameron actively began his crusade.  From 1942 to 1950, he served as the Indiana State Director of Civil Liberties, investigating civil rights abuses and reporting on violations of the “equal accommodations” law to end previously mandated segregation.  During this time, Cameron also founded three local chapters of the NAACP and served as the first president of the Madison County, Indiana chapter.  After receiving numerous threats to himself and his family, Cameron moved back to Wisconsin in 1950, where he participated in the struggle to end segregated housing in Milwaukee.  In the 1960s he took part in both Civil Rights marches on Washington. 

Cameron wrote extensively about his experiences and civil rights issues.  He published hundreds of articles and booklets detailing occurrences of racial injustices in the United States.  In 1982, he took out a second mortgage on his house in order to print 5,000 copies of his memoir, A Time of Terror, which was later published by Black Classic Press. 

This interview has
been archived in the
NVLP Collection of
African American
Oral Histories at the
Library of Congress
American Folklife
Cameron was moved and inspired by a 1979 visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel, and in 1988, founded America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee to preserve the history of African Americans who faced the terror and violence of lynching.  The museum explores the history of the struggles of Blacks in America from slavery to modern day and was considered one of the first of its kind in the country.

In 1993, Cameron received an official pardon and public apology from the State of Indiana and returned to Marion that year to accept the key to the city.  The pardon is on display at the museum and was among Cameron’s most prized possessions. 

In June of 2005, the U.S. Senate formally apologized to Cameron and others for its failure to outlaw lynching.

Cameron passed away on June 11, 2006, after a long illness.



James Cameron's Wikipedia page

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/cameronjames