New York Herald, April 4, 1892. If the otherwise “quiet and inoffensive” Gid Crane of Texas was ostensibly willing to play along with the blue gum mystique, he was playing a pretty dangerous game, as this horrific item illustrates. Again, the parallels to identifying/being indentified as a witch are pretty strong here. I’m puzzled by the above assertion that “few have ever been found who have ever seen such a person.” Our Northern correspondent must not have kept very close track of the Southern press, because BGNs were in the news all the time.
That last assertion is open to question. Afro-Am scholars (following the admirable Lawrence Levine) have written a lot about the social archetype of the “bad nigger” qua folk hero and admired symbol of resistance and self-assertion among poor black people. Of course, in practice they may have been easier to admire from a distance, or when they took the form of mythic figures like Stagolee and John Hardy. (And yeah, I’m aware both legends were rooted in biographical fact.)
Our nameless BGN here is by far the deadliest exemplar of his kind that I have run across so far. Typically death follows the bite in a matter of days, not hours. (Of course, I am not assuming that any of the above is remotely true in an historical sense. The reportage here, devoid of “who” and “when” among other crucial journalistic W’s, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.)
This is the only part of the story I’d bet the rent on: an “uppity” black man was identified as blue gum and got lynched.
Tangentially, I have yet to find an instance of a female blue gum. So that’s a point of distinction between witches and BGNs.