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The Story of Rosa Lee Ingram

A Georgia woman and her two children were sentenced to death.

By Gladys W. MuturiPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
Rosa Lee Ingram (Artwork by Billy Dee, 2014)

This was a new story I just found out which was very interesting. This is a story about an African American woman who was convicted of murder along with her teenage sons. They were all sentenced to death until Civil rights organizations launched an ambitious campaign to free the Ingrams in the years that followed. This is the story of Rosa Lee Ingram.

Rosa Lee Ingram was born on July 23, 1902, in Georgia. Ingram was a widower and a mother of twelve children. During her time in Georgia, Ingram farmed adjoining lots with white sharecropper John Ed Stratford in Schley County, near Ellaville.

November 4, 1947

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. Several of Ingram's sons including her sons: seventeen-year-old Charles, sixteen-year-old Wallace, and fourteen-year-old Sammie Lee came to her defense, and Stratford was killed by blows to the head. Ingram was arrested along with her three teenage sons. The four were placed in separate jails and were not provided legal counsel. Local authorities would later claim that Rosa Lee, Wallace, and Sammie Lee revised their initial account of the altercation while in custody. According to these new statements, two struggles occurred, and Stratford was killed during the second one when the Ingrams seized his rifle and pursued him as he ran to his house. Charles, however, refused to change his statement, insisting that only one confrontation had occurred.

Ingram and her sons

The Trial

Rosa Lee, Wallace, and Sammie Lee were tried on January 26, 1948, in Ellaville by Judge W. M. Harper. Charles was tried the following afternoon. Both trials lasted only a single day. Not until the day before the first of the two trials, when S. Hawkins Dykes was appointed as the Ingrams’ attorney, would any of the four defendants have access to legal counsel. Based on his account of their later statements, Sheriff J. E. De Vane informed the jury that the Ingrams followed the fleeing Stratford and beat him to death with several farming tools. When she took the stand, Ingram denied making any such statement. She said that Stratford threatened her with a knife and struck her with a rifle. She then managed to take possession of the gun and struck Stratford about the head in self-defense. She testified that Wallace also struck Stratford once with the rifle, but that none of her other sons had done the same. Wallace and Sammie Lee gave similar accounts on the stand. There were no other eyewitnesses.

Juries found that all three were found guilty and sentenced to death. Her son Charles was acquitted due to insufficient evidence. 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.

Protest for the Ingrams

Since the death sentencing of Ingram and two of her sons, the U.S. erupted in protests against the trial and sentences, which had been conducted in haste and secrecy. the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), and Georgia-based groups such as the Georgia Defense Committee. The Pittsburgh Courier, an influential Black newspaper, brought national attention to the case by running several front-page pieces about the Ingrams. The case also received significant attention from communist publications such as the Daily Worker. A majority of these stories portrayed Mrs. Ingram as a mother protecting her family from a white attacker, making her the face of the family’s campaign for exoneration. The case marked the first occasion that the CRC, a relatively new organization, launched a national campaign to free a Black defendant. The group never represented the Ingrams in court and at times disagreed with the NAACP’s strategy, but it played a significant role in bringing public opinion to the Ingram family’s side.

A newspaper ad distributed by the Communist Party USA demanding to free the Ingrams.

The Civil Rights Congress (CRC), a left-based organization, also became involved in raising funds for the Ingrams and publicizing their cause but also generating tensions with the NAACP which harkened back to the political splits seen in the Scottsboro cases of the 1930s. When the Ingrams appealed in 1948, Georgia courts reduced the death sentence to life imprisonment but refused to take further action. The NAACP and the CRC’s formal protests thus increasingly stalled due to both strategy conflicts and the continuing power of the Southern legal system. At this point, female activists emerged as a critical political voice on behalf of Rosa Lee Ingram and her sons, often working across traditional alliances of race and class. Other groups such as the Sojourners for Truth and Justice linked the Ingram case to the failures of the Southern legal system, calling upon President Harry Truman to take action. The Ingrams were released on parole in 1959. Rosa died on August 5, 1980, at the age of 78. As for her sons, they had resided in Leslie, Georgia.

This story is something I discovered on TikTok. I thought this story was very similar to Lena Baker, an African American maid who was convicted of murdering her boss in an act of self-defense. Here's an article story about Lena Baker.

Tiktoks on Rosa Lee Ingram:



Tiktok: @itskimberlyrenee, @akucorner

juryracial profilinginvestigationinnocenceincarceration

About the Creator

Gladys W. Muturi

Hello, My name is Gladys W. Muturi. I am an Actress, Writer, Filmmaker, Producer, and Mother of 1.

Instagram: @gladys_muturi95

Twitter: @gladys_muturi


YouTube: @gladys_muturi

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