17-year-old Virginia Christian
murdered her employer, Ida Belote on
March 18, 1912.
Ida Belote, 51 was one of Hampton's
white aristocracy by way of her
father's prominence as the owner of a
large grocery. News accounts
described her as weighing only 91
pounds, "a frail, delicate widow".
Virginia, called Gennie was Belote's
washerwoman. Belote had accused
Gennie of stealing a locket and a skirt,
and the two got into a violent
argument. Gennie had used a broom
handle to force Ida's tongue, a towel
and some of her hair down her throat.
The police found Belote laying face
down in a pool of blood.
Gennie did litle to cover up her crime,
and she confessed soon after she was
Local papers reported that despite a
vigorous defense, the jury returned
a guilty verdict on April 9, 1912.
On Aug. 16, 1912, just five months after
the crime, Virginia Christian was
strapped in the electric chair at the state
penitentiary in Richmond, Virginia.
Virginia's electric chair was build in 1908
and thus quite new when used upon
In the years around 1912 the procedure
of electrocution was still under
developement. The electrodes were
attached to Gennie's forearms instead of
her head and leg.
A reporter witnessed the execution:
The usual three shocks were
administered by the officer in charge of
the electric current. Each time the
electric switch was touched, the body of
the woman responded with fearful
convulsions. Death, it is believed, was
The paper reported that Gennie's body
was to be turned over to the state
medical school, because her parents did
not have the money to transport the
body from Richmond.
In the lokal press of the time Virginia Christian was described as: A full-blooded negress,
with kinky hair done up in threads, with dark lusterless eyes and with splotches on the skin of
her face. Her color is dark brown, and her figure is short, dumpy and squashy. She has had
some schooling, but her speech does not betray it. Her language is the same as the unlettered
members of her race.
A newspapers quoted Virginia's confession like this:
She (Mrs Belote) come to mammer’s house dat morning an’ say she want me to come an’ do
some washin’. When I come home mommer say miss Belote want me an’ I went ‘roun’ to de
house. I wen’ in de back way an’ when she see me she asked me about a gold locket she missed.
I told her I ain’t seen it an’ don’t know nuthin’ about it. She also say sumthin’ about a skirt
but de main thing was the locket. She say “yes you got it an’ if you don’t bring it back, I’m
goin’ to have you put in jail.”
I got mad an’ told her if I did have it, she wasn’t goin’ to git it back. Den she picked up de
spittoon and hit me wit it an’ it broke. They wuz two sticks in de room, broom handles. She run
for one, an’ I for de’ other. I got my stick furst an’ I hit her wit it ‘side de hade and she fell
down. She kep’ hollerin’ so I took a towel and stuffed it in her mouth. I helt it there twel she
quit hollerin’ and jes’ groaned. I didn’t mean to kill her an’ I didn’t know I had. I was mad
when I hit her an’ stuffed the towel in her mouth to keep her from hollerin’. I never meant to
kill her. When I lef’ she was groanin’ and layin’ on her back.
Virginia's mother, Charlotte Christian wrote a letter in a vain attemt to save her daughter from
the electric chair:
My dear Mr. Governor: Please forgive me for bothering you ... I have been paralyzed for more
than three years and I could not look after Gennie as I wants to. I know she done an awful
wicked thing when she killed Miss Belote and I hear that people at the penitentiary wants to kill
her. But I am praying night and day on my knees to God that he will soften your heart. If you
only save my child who is so little, God will bless you forever.