Some rationalize American terrorism toward American Blacks by saying that poverty created the defensive urge in some poor whites, but Bob Dylan may have gotten closer to the truth when he wrote:
A South politician preaches to the poor white man
“You got more than the blacks, don’t complain
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin, ” they explain
And the Negro’s name
Is used, it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.
Whatever the reason, the arc of justice, if it was bending toward justice, may have bent for some, but hardly for others–if at all.
As the lynchings continued the echoes of States Rights from the Civil War continued to thwart attempts by some to outlaw lynching.
Wade Thomas lynched
December 26, 1920: Wade Thomas was a native of Jonesboro County, Arkansas. On Christmas night 1920, Thomas was armed with a pistol and was playing a game of craps with his neighborhood black friends. Police officer Elmer “Snookums” Ragland raided the game, and shots were fired. Ragland was killed and Thomas was injured. Thomas escaped to the next county but was arrested there and brought back to Jonesboro County.
A coroner’s jury indicted Thomas for murder. Allegedly, Thomas confessed to killing Policeman Ragland, but claimed that he did not shoot until after he had been wounded twice. An angry mob stormed the court and told the judge to leave unless he wanted to witness the lynching. After Thomas was taken from his jail cell, a noose was draped around his neck and he was led to a telephone pole and hung. [Black Then article]
David Bunn killed running from lynch mob
October 11, 1921: Tarrant County Sheriff Carl Smith and Deputy Tom Snow shot David Bunn, a handcuffed Black man, as he fled to escape a white lynch mob. Four days before these officers shot Bunn, white mobs made three separate attempts to lynch him.
At 2:30 am on the morning of October 11, the officers handcuffed Mr. Bunn and loaded him into a police car. Mr. Bunn sat in terror as they drove, even saying to the officers that he feared being lynched. As they crossed the county line near Arlington, Sheriff Smith observed four automobiles approaching, and identified these vehicles as members of the lynch mob, saying to Mr. Bunn “I think that’s them…”
Fearing for his life, Mr. Bunn jumped, in handcuffs, from the police car. Rather than capture Mr. Bunn and return him to their car, Sheriff Smith and Deputy Snow shot and killed him as the mob approached. Four bullets were lodged in his body before Mr. Bunn fell into a roadside ditch and died. No one faced charges or accountability for Mr. Bunn’s murder. [EJI article]
Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill
October 20, 1921: the House Judiciary Committee favorably reported Leonidas C. Dyer’s Anti-Lynching Bill which would impose heavy penalties on persons involved in mob action resulting in the taking of life.
Despite filibusters and ongoing southern Democratic obstruction, the House, controlled by a Republican majority, eventually passed the bill and sent it to the Senate where the like-minded southern Democrats were able to kill the bill.
See Dyer for an expanded chronology of the long sad story.
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And lynching continued…
Arthur Young & Charles Wright lynched
December 12, 1922: Arthur Young and Charles Wright were accused of killing a local white school teacher. Though items found near the woman’s body belonged to a local white man, police were convinced the perpetrator had to be a black man, and quickly focused on Wright as a suspect. The deep racial hostility that permeated Southern society during this time period often served to focus suspicion on black communities after a crime was discovered, whether evidence supported that suspicion or not. This was especially true in cases of violent crime against white victims.
After several days of violent manhunts that terrorized the black community and left at least one black man dead, police arrested Charles Wright with a friend named Arthur Young. Before the men could be investigated or tried, a white mob seized Mr. Wright as they were being transported to jail and burned him alive.
Four days later, on December 12th, the lynch mob attacked again. As officers were moving Arthur Young to another jail, the mob seized him, riddled his body with bullets, and left his corpse hanging from a tree on the side of a highway in Perry, Florida. [EJI article]
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January 1, 1923: in Sumner, Florida, Fannie Taylor, a sixteen-year-old married white woman, claimed she had been assaulted by Jesse Hunter, a black fugitive from a prison chain gang. There was no evidence against Hunter, but local white men launched a manhunt in Rosewood, a nearby town of about 200 black people. [Guardian report]
January 2, 1923: a mob of white men kidnapped, tortured, and lynched Sam Carter, a black craftsman from Rosewood, on suspicion that he had helped Jesse Hunter escape. White men continued to terrorize Rosewood searching for Hunter and black residents armed themselves in defense. [Black Past report]
January 4, 1923: hundreds of white men began the burning of Rosewood, Fla. Within three days, the entire African-American town had been burned to the ground. By the time the violence ended, six African Americans and two whites had died. No one was ever prosecuted. Survivors later recounted that Fannie Taylor had made false accusations against Jesse Hunter to conceal her extramarital affair with a white man. In 1994, the Florida Legislature voted to compensate victims and their families.
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Moore v. Dempsey
February 19, 1923: in Moore v. Dempsey, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that mob-dominated trials violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1919, African-American sharecroppers had gathered in a church at Elaine, Ark., to discuss fairer prices for their products. White men fired into church, leading to three days of fighting and the killing of five white men and more than 100 black men, women and children. A white committee appointed by the governor concluded the black men planned to kill all the whites. More than 700 African-American men were arrested with 67 sent to prison and a dozen to Death Row. The Supreme Court reversed the cases on appeal, concluding the trial had been prejudiced by a white mob outside yelling that if the black men weren’t sentenced to death, the mob would lynch them. The court decision was a major victory for African Americans and the NAACP, which had represented the men. (PBS article)
James T Scott lynched
April 29, 1923 a week after authorities arrested James T Scott for allegedly sexually assaulting the 14-year-old daughter of Missouri University German professor Hermann Almstedt, a mob forcibly removed the door from Scott’s cell in the Boone County Jail and marched him to a bridge near Stewart and Providence roads. A rope was placed around Scott’s neck, and he was hanged from the bridge before a hundreds of people without any opportunity to plead his case in court. [Missourian article] (ext BH, see June 21; next Lynching, see July 13 or see AL3 for expanded chronology of early 20th century lynching)
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July 13, 1923: US House representative Leonidas Dyer of St Louis stated that he was not surprised at the acquittal of a George Barkwell at Columbia, Missouri on the charge of murder in connection with the lynching of James Scott, a Black. Dyer referred to statistics which, he said, showed that 3,824 lynchings had been recorded during the last thirty-five years and that in all those cases there had scarcely been a conviction. [H of R bio]
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Ben Hart lynched
August 24, 1923: a 34-year-old black farmhand Ben Hart was killed based on suspicion that he was a “Peeping Tom” who had that morning peered into a young white girl’s bedroom window near Jacksonville, Florida. According to witnesses, approximately ten unmasked men came to Hart’s home around 9:30 p.m. claiming to be deputy sheriffs and informing Hart he was accused of looking into the girl’s window. Hart professed his innocence and readily agreed to go to the county jail with the men, but did not live to complete the journey.
Shortly after midnight the next day, Hart’s handcuffed and bullet-riddled body was found in a ditch about three miles from the city. Hart had been shot six times and witnesses reported seeing him earlier that night fleeing several white men on foot who were shooting at him as several more automobiles filled with white men followed.
Police investigating Hart’s murder soon determined he was innocent of the accusation against him; he was at his home 12 miles away when the alleged peeping incident occurred. [EJI story]
John Carter lynched
May 4, 1927: near Little Rock, Arkansas, two white women – Mrs. B.E. Stewart, age forty-five, and her daughter Glennie, seventeen – were driving a wagon on a rural road, heading toward Little Rock. According to their report a black man approached and assaulted them. Sheriff Mike Haynie organized a posse which found John Carter, a local black man.
Mob members took Carter to a telephone pole and hit him with a revolver. They told him to confess, and then to pray. Before he finished, someone put a rope around his neck and told him to climb on top of a car. When he couldn’t, he was pushed up. Someone drove the car out from under him and he swung in the air. A line of fifty men fired guns, striking Carter with more than two hundred bullets.
Despite a picture of the hanging body, with the crowd of 400+ visible in the background, none of the mob members admitted to being there. A report said Carter had been killed “by parties unknown in a mob.”3
The mob took Carter’s body to Little Rock to burn it. When they got to the city, they tied him to the car’s bumper and dragged him through the city for an hour. The mob eventually stopped at Ninth and Broadway, the center of the black business district. They poured gasoline and kerosene over Carter’s body. They piled on boxes, tree limbs, and pews from the nearby Bethel A.M.E. Church, and lit the fire. More white people hurried to the area. By that point the crowd was about seven thousand men, women, and children watching.
July 15, 1930: Senator Coleman L. Blease‘s advocated a lynch law for Blacks (only) guilty of criminally assaulting white women. “Whenever the Constitution comes between me and the virtue of the white women of South Carolina, I say ‘To hell with the Constitution.’ “
Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith lynched
August 7, 1930: a white mob lynched Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana. The two young black men, 18 and 19 years old respectively, had been arrested that afternoon. They were accused of attacking a young white couple, beating and fatally shooting the man, and attempting to assault the woman. Once the men were detained, word of the charges spread and a growing mob of angry white residents gathered outside the county jail.
Around 9:30 p.m., the mob attempted to rush the jail and was repelled by tear gas. An hour later, they successfully barreled past the sheriff and three deputies, grabbed Shipp and Smith from their cells as they prayed, and dragged them into the street. By then numbering between 5000 and 10,000 people (half the white population of Grant County) the mob beat, tortured, and hung both men from trees in the courthouse yard, brutally executing them without benefit of trial or legal proof of guilt. As the men’s bodies hung, members of the mob re-entered the jail and grabbed 16-year-old James Cameron, another youth being held for the crime. The mob beat Cameron severely and were preparing to hang him alongside the others when a member of the crowd intervened and insisted he was innocent. Cameron was released and the mob later dispersed.
Enraged by the lynching, the NAACP traveled to Marion to investigate, and later provided United States Attorney General James Ogden with the names of 27 people believed to have participated. Though the lynching and its spectators were photographed, local residents claimed not to recognize anyone pictured and no one was charged or tried in connection with the killings. A photograph of Shipp’s and Smith’s battered corpses hanging lifeless from a tree, with white spectators proudly standing below, remains one of the most iconic lynching photographs. After seeing the photo in 1937, New York schoolteacher Abe Meeropol was inspired to write “Strange Fruit,” a haunting poem about lynching that later became a famous song recorded by Billie Holiday. [Black Past article]
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Henry Argo Lynched
May 31, 1930: Henry Argo, a 19-year-old Black man, was lynched after a mob of over 1,000 white men and boys as young as 12 stormed the Grady County jail in Chickasha, Oklahoma. He was shot in the head and stabbed by members of the mob, despite the presence of the National Guard who were ordered to protect him.
Mr. Argo had been accused of assaulting a white woman.
The mob of white people was led by a white man named George Skinner, who had accused Mr. Argo of assaulting his wife. The mob assembled late the night before, on May 30, after Mr. Argo had been arrested and taken into custody. They attempted to use sledgehammers and battering rams to break into the jail and kill Mr. Argo. The National Guard was then deployed to protect Mr. Argo, but they failed. [EJI article]
November 25, 1930: a delegation from the Anti-Lynching Congress, which was meeting in Washington, D.C., delivered a protest to President Herbert Hoover, demanding that he take action to end the lynching of African-Americans. The group was led by Maurice W. Spencer, president of the National Equal Rights League and Race Congress. President Hoover did not respond.
Herbert Hoover was basically sympathetic to the needs of African-Americans in American society, but was not willing to expend any political capital on civil rights. He was very upset, for example, when Southern bigots protested when First Lady Lou Henry Hoover invited the wife of African-American Congressman Oscar DePriest to the White House for tea (along with all the other Congressional wives), on June 12, 1929. He responded by inviting Robert Moton, President of Tuskegee University, to the White House in a symbolic gesture.
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Raymond Gunn lynched
January 12, 1931: authorities arrested Raymond Gunn, an African American man, after he was accused of killing a white schoolteacher.
Following his arrest, police took Gunn to jail in a neighboring county due to threats of lynching. Lynch mobs still formed and attempted to seize Gunn from jail, so officials transported him to another prison with reinforcement from firemen and a tank company of the Missouri National Guard.
On January 12, the morning of Gunn’s arraignment, a mob of about two thousand white men, women, and children gathered outside the courthouse. Despite the previous attacks, the local sheriff did not request assistance from the National Guard. With little resistance from local law enforcement, and sixty members of the National Guard at ease in an armory one block from the courthouse, Mr. Gunn was seized by the mob and burned on the roof of the schoolhouse. [EJI article]
January 14, 1931: black residents of Maryville, Missouri fled the town after the lynching of Raymond Gunn on January 12. More than 20 percent of Maryville’s black population fled the town in fear. Despite investigations initiated by state officials, no one was ever arrested or convicted of any crime related to the lynching of Raymond Gunn. [EJI article]
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Reuben Micou lynched
April 2, 1933: a mob of white men broke into the Winston County jail in Louisville, Mississippi to lynch a 65-year-old black man named Reuben Micou. Micou had been arrested after he was accused of getting into an altercation with a prominent local white man.
Micou’s body was found in a nearby churchyard, riddled with bullets and bearing injuries suggesting that Micou had been whipped. Seventeen white men were indicted and arrested for participating in the lynching, but in July 1933 the cases against the seventeen men were “indefinitely postponed.” No one was ever tried or convicted for Micou’s murder. [EJI story]
George Armwood lynched
October 18, 1933: a mob of at least 2000 white residents of Princess Anne, Maryland beat, hanged, dragged, and burned George Armwood to death. Armwood, reportedly known to be “feeble-minded,” had been accused of assaulting an 80-year-old woman who was also the mother of a local white policeman. Shortly after being arrested, Armwood was dragged out of the jail and an 18-year-old boy immediately cut off his ear with a butcher knife. The growing mob then beat George Armwood nearly to death and dragged him to a tree, where he was hanged. Afterward, the mob cut down his corpse, dragged it through the streets, hanged it again, and then staged a public burning. The New Journal and Guide reported that “[m]en, women and children, participated in the savage orgy.”
Armwood’s lynching sparked a national outcry and calls for prosecution of the lynchers, yet investigations at the county, state, and federal levels faced obstacles and delays. Inquiries following the lynching were marked by residents’ refusal to identify participants as well as mockery and intimidation of black witnesses. The American Civil Liberties Union, frustrated with the silence, began offering a $1000 reward to people willing to name leaders of the mob.
Even when finally presented with identifying evidence, the county prosecutor refused to act. When the Maryland Attorney General ordered troops to arrest eight named participants, white residents who supported the accused lynchers waged riots of protest. Four white men were ultimately tried for the lynching of George Armwood, and acquitted by all-white juries. [EJI article]
In a previous post, Never Forget American Lynching, I gave an overview of lynching in the United States during the 19th century. This post will cover between 1900 and 1921.
As with the “Never Forget…” post, much of this information came from the Equal Justice Initiative‘s laborious research. Having said that, the article does not list every lynching from 1900 to 1921.
George H White
January 20, 1900: Black Congressman, George H White from North Carolina introduced the first bill in Congress to make lynching a federal crime to be prosecuted by federal courts; it died in committee, opposed by southern white Democrats.
John Porter lynched
November 16, 1900: early in 1900 a black family, Preston Porter, Sr and his two sons, “John” and Arthur, moved to the Limon, Colorado area to work on the railroad.
On November 8, a white girl named Louise Frost was found dead in Limon. Newspapers reported that the Porters had left Limon for Denver a few days after the girl was found dead. White authorities focused suspicions on them.
On November 12th, authorities arrested all three and took them to the Denver jail. After four days, newspapers reported that sixteen-year-old Preston “John” Porter Jr had confessed to the crime “in order to save his father and brother from sharing the fate that he believes awaits him.”
Despite the Governor’s order that the risk of lynching was to great to return John to Limon, the Denver sheriff transported John there by train.
John was said to have been reading a Bible and was allowed to pray before his lynching. When the flames reached his body, reports documented his screams for help as he writhed in pain, crying, “Oh my God, let me go men!…Please let me go. Oh, my God, my God!” When the ropes binding John to the stake had burned through, such that his body had fallen partially out of the fire, members of the mob threw additional kerosene oil over him and added wood to the fire. It was reported that John’s last words were “Oh, God, have mercy on these men, on the little girl and her father!”
No investigation into the lynching was conducted and the coroner concluded John died “at the hands of parties unknown.” [EJI article]
Ballie Crutchfield lynched
March 15, 1901: a white mob in Rome, Tennessee, lynched a Black woman named Ballie Crutchfield. Ms. Crutchfield was accused of no crime, and targeted simply because the mob had earlier that night failed in its attempt to lynch her brother.
A week earlier, a white man in Rome had reportedly lost a wallet containing $120. As word spread that a young Black boy had found the wallet and given it to a young Black man named William Crutchfield, white residents accused William of stealing the wallet.
Though there was no evidence supporting the claim that William Crutchfield had stolen the wallet, he was promptly arrested and taken to the local jail. That night, a white mob stormed the jail and abducted Mr. Crutchfield from police custody, but as they prepared to lynch him, he escaped.
The lynch mob searched but failed to find Mr. Crutchfield; determined to take out their vengeance on someone, they instead seized his sister, Ballie Crutchfield, from her home. Though she was not even alleged to be in any way involved with the lost wallet, the mob took Ms. Crutchfield—whose first name was also reported as “Sallie”—to a bridge a short distance from the town, tied her hands behind her back, shot her in the head, and threw her body into the creek below. [EJI article]
Silas Ester lynched
October 31, 1901: authorities in Hadgenville, Kentucky had arrested Silas Ester accusing him of coercing a young boy to commit a crime. At approximately 2:00 am a lynch mob of more than 50 white men tightened a noose around the neck Esters’s neck and dragged him from the LaRue County Jail.
Police officers at the jail had surrendered the keys and made no effort to protect Esters.
In an attempt to escape his fate, Mr. Esters slipped free and began to run away – but made it only 100 yards before his body was riddled with bullets. The mob then placed the rope noose around the neck of his corpse, dragged the lifeless body to the courthouse, and swung it from the top steps. No one was ever held accountable for the lynching of Silas Esters. [EJI article]
Thomas Brown lynched
February 6, 1902: Thomas Brown, a 19-year-old black man, was seized from a jail cell and lynched on the lawn of the Jessamine County Courthouse in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Thomas had been arrested for an alleged assault on a white woman but never had the chance to stand trial.
A mob of 200 white men assembled at the jail and seized Thomas Brown from police. They then hung him from a tree in front of the county courthouse. Though news reports identified the young woman’s brother as a leader of the mob, no one was ever prosecuted for Thomas Brown’s murder and authorities concluded that he “met death by strangulation at the hands of parties unknown.” [EJI article]
George White lynched
June 23, 1903: a white mob of more than 4,000 people in Wilmington, Delaware, burned a Black man named George White to death before he could stand trial. Mr. White, who had been arrested and accused of killing a young white woman, adamantly denied any involvement in the crime and never had the opportunity to defend himself in court.
Within one week of Mr. White’s arrest, two lynch mobs attempted to abduct him from the workhouse where he was being held. White Wilmington residents talked openly about these lynching plans. In a sermon on June 21, local white pastor Robert Elwood urged white residents to exact swift public vengeance by lynching Mr. White. A lynch mob began forming the next day, and its members spent the next two days meticulously planning the public spectacle lynching that took place on June 23. Despite this public planning, in which mob members even shared their plans in advance with police officers, authorities charged with protecting him did not relocate him to a different jail and the local court refused to advance his trial date. [EJI article]
Luther Holbert & unidentified woman lynched
February 7, 1904: as hundreds of white people watched and cheered, a black man named Luther Holbert and an unidentified woman were tortured and killed in Doddsville, Mississippi, a Sunflower County town in the Mississippi Delta. Holbert was accused of shooting and killing James Eastland, a white landowner from a prominent, wealthy local family that owned a plantation where many of the area’s black laborers worked. After his shooting, James Eastland’s two brothers led the posse that captured Mr. Holbert and a black woman. Some news reports identified the woman as Mr. Holbert’s wife, but later research suggested she was not; her identity remains unknown.
According to an eyewitness account published in the Vicksburg, Mississippi, Evening Post, Luther Holbert and the unnamed black woman were tied to trees while their funeral pyres were prepared. They were then forced to hold out their hands and watch as their fingers were chopped off, one at a time, and distributed as souvenirs. Next, the same was done to their ears. Mr. Holbert was then beaten so badly that his skull was fractured and one of his eyes hung by a shred from the socket. The lynch mob next used a large corkscrew to bore into the arms, legs, and body of the two victims, pulling out large pieces of raw, quivering flesh. The victims reportedly did not cry out, and they were finally thrown on the fire and allowed to burn to death. The event was described as a festive atmosphere, in which the audience of 600 spectators enjoyed deviled eggs, lemonade, and whiskey. [EJI story]
Rufus Lesseur lynched
August 16, 1904: a mob of unmasked white men in Marengo County, Alabama, lynched Rufus Lesseur, a 24-year-old Black man, and left his body riddled with bullets.
Less than two days earlier, a white woman in Thomaston, Alabama, claimed that a Black man had entered her home and frightened her. After someone claimed that a hat found near the woman’s home belonged to Mr. Lesseur, a mob of white men formed and kidnapped him. The white men transported a terrified Mr. Lesseur into the nearby woods, and locked him in a tiny calaboose, or makeshift jail for more than a day.
At 3:00 a.m. on August 16, without an investigation, trial, conviction of any offense, or a sentencing proceeding, a mob of white men broke into the locked shack, seized Mr. Lesseur, dragged him outside, and lynched him, filling his body with bullets.
Although he was lynched by a mob of unmasked white men in a town with only 300 residents, state officials claimed that no one could be identified, arrested, or prosecuted for his murder. [EJI article]
Horace Duncan, Fred Coker, and Will Allen lynched
April 14, 1906: two innocent black men named Horace Duncan and Fred Coker (aka Jim Copeland) were abducted from the county jail by a white mob of several thousand participants and lynched in Springfield, Missouri.
The day before, a white woman reported that two African American men had assaulted her. Despite having “no evidence against them,” local police arrested Duncan and Coker were “on suspicion.”
Local law enforcement did little to stop the mob from seizing the two men, though the officers were armed. When the mob dragged Duncan and Coker outside, the gathered crowd of nearly 3,000 angry white men, women, and children began shouting, “Hang them!” and “Burn them!”
At the public square, the mob hanged both men from the railing of the Gottfried Tower, then set a fire underneath and watched as both corpses were reduced to ashes in the flames.
Continuing their rampage, the mob returned to the jail and proceeded to lynch another African American man—Will Allen.
Two days after the lynchings, the woman who reported being assaulted issued a statement that she was “positive” that [Mr. Coker and Mr. Duncan] “were not her assailants, and that she could identify her assailants if they were brought before her.”
Four white men were arrested and twenty-five warrants issued, but only one white man was tried and no one was ever convicted. [EJI article]
Eli Pigot lynched
February 10, 1908: a mob of more than 2,000 white people in Brookhaven, Mississippi lynched Eli Pigot, a black man, accused of assaulting a white woman.
According to news reports, police deputies and armed military guards transported Pigot from Jackson to Brookhaven to stand trial. Upon arrival in Brookhaven, the lynch mob briefly scuffled with the military guards before seizing him, kicking and beating him, and then hanging him from a telephone pole less than a hundred yards from the Lincoln County Courthouse. The mob then riddled Mr. Pigot’s corpse with bullets as it swung from the pole. [EJI article]
Nine Lynched in Sabine County, TX
June 22, 1908: nine Black men were lynched in Sabine County, Texas, within a 24-hour period. The reign of racial terror began when a white farmer was shot to death in his home by an unknown assailant on the evening of June 21.
Six Black men—Jerry Evans, William Johnson, William Manuel, Moses Spellman, Cleveland Williams, and Frank Williams—were already in jail, accused of being involved in a completely unrelated shooting of another local white man. Early on the morning of June 22, a mob of about 200 white men broke into the jail and seized them from the police custody. Five of the men were hanged from a tree outside of the jail, and Mr. Williams, the sixth, was shot in the back as he tried to escape.
Later that night, marauding white men shot and killed a Black man named Bill McCoy near the white farmer’s home, and shot and killed two unidentified Black men and threw their bodies into a creek. A Black church and school house in the town were also burned to the ground. [EJI article] (next BH and Lynching, see Aug 14 or see AL2 for expanding lynching chronology)
August 14, 1908: a race revolt broke out in the Illinois capital of Springfield. Angry over reports that a black man had sexually assaulted a white woman, a white mob wanted to take a recently arrested suspect from the city jail and kill him. They also wanted Joe James, an out-of-town black who was accused of killing a white railroad engineer, Clergy Ballard, a month earlier.
Late that afternoon, a crowd gathered in front of the jail in the city’s downtown and demanded that the police hand over the two men to them. But the police had secretly taken the prisoners out the back door into a waiting automobile and out of town to safety. When the crowd discovered that the prisoners were gone, they rioted. First they attacked and destroyed a restaurant owned by a wealthy white citizen, Harry Loper, who had provided the automobile that the sheriff used to get the two men out of harm’s way. The crowd completed its work by setting fire to the automobile, which was parked in front of the restaurant.
The rioters next methodically destroyed a small black business district downtown, breaking windows and doors, stealing or destroying merchandise, and wrecking furniture and equipment. The mob’s third and last effort that night was to destroy a nearby poor black neighborhood called the Badlands. Most blacks had fled the city, but as the mob swept through the area, they captured and lynched a black barber, Scott Burton, who had stayed behind to protect his home. [Black Past article]
August 15, 1908: at nightfall white rioters regrouped downtown. The new mob marched west to the state arsenal, hoping to get at several hundred blacks who had taken refuge there, but they were driven off by state troops who charged the crowd with bayonets fixed to their rifles. The crowd then marched to a predominantly white, middle-class neighborhood and seized and hung an elderly wealthy black resident. After this second killing, enough troops arrived in the capital to prevent further mass attacks. Nonetheless, what the press called “guerilla-style” hit-and-run attacks against black residents continued through August and into September.
February 12, 1909: on the centennial of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth, African Americans signed a proclamation known as “The Call,” leading to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The interracial group was created to safeguard civil, legal, economic, human and political rights of African Americans.
The appeal took place in response to continued lynchings and the 1908 race riot in Springfield, Ill. Sixty people, including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell, signed the proclamation.
Douglas Lemon and Rankin Moore Lynched
June 5, 1910: a white mob lynched Douglas Lemon and Rankin Moore, two Black men, as they were walking home from a community festival in Orange County, Texas.
In the days leading up to the lynchings, white mobs had targeted and terrorized the Black community in Orange County, furious that a jury had recently failed to convict a Black man named Jack White of killing a white man. In addition to lynching Mr. Lemon and Mr. Moore, the white mob shot into the Black district of town and fired at other Black men, who managed to survive. No one was ever held accountable. [EJI article]
Norris Dendy Lynched
July 4, 1910: a white mob in Clinton, South Carolina, seized a 35-year-old Black man named Norris Dendy from a local jail cell, beat him, and hanged him. The mob then dumped Mr. Dendy’s brutalized body in a churchyard seven miles from Laurens County. Even though several Black people witnessed the mob seizing Mr. Dendy from the local jail, no one was ever held accountable. [EJI article]
Laura Nelson & son L.D. Lynched
May 24, 1911: shortly before midnight, a mob of dozens of armed white men broke into the Okfuskee County jail in Okemah, Oklahoma, and abducted Laura Nelson and her young son, L.D. The mob took the Black woman and boy six miles away and hanged them from a bridge over the Canadian River, close to the Black part of town; according to some reports, members of the mob also raped Mrs. Nelson, who was about 28 years old according to census records, before lynching her alongside her son. Their bodies were found the next morning.
Hundreds of white people from Okemah came to view the bodies. Some even posed on the bridge to have their photos taken with the bodies of the dead Black woman and boy. Those photographs were later reprinted as postcards and sold at novelty stores.
When a special grand jury was called to investigate the lynching, the district judge instructed the white jurors to be mindful of their duty as members “of a superior race and greater intelligence to protect this weaker race.” No one was indicted, prosecuted, or held legally accountable for lynching Laura and L.D. Nelson. [EJI article]
Tom Allen and Joe Watts Lynched
June 27, 1911: a Walton County, Georgia mob of several hundred unmasked white men lynched two Black men named Tom Allen and Joe Watts after a local white judge—Charles H. Brand—had refused to allow state guardsmen to be present to prevent mob action.
Judge Brand had been aware of the threat of mob violence for weeks. Mr. Allen, who had been accused of assaulting a white woman, had been held in Atlanta for safekeeping because of the threat. In early June, Mr. Allen was brought to Monroe for trial with the protection of state troops from the Governor, but Judge Brand “resented” the presence of troops, postponed the trial because of the protection being offered, and sent Mr. Allen back to Atlanta. When Mr. Allen was ordered back to Monroe for trial on June 27, Judge Brand refused an offer of protection from the state troops. Consequently, Mr. Allen was protected only by two officers on the train.
Knowing that Mr. Allen no longer had the protection of state troops, the white mob intercepted the train bound for Monroe and seized Mr. Allen from the two officers charged with protecting him. The mob tied Mr. Allen to a telegraph pole and shot him while the passengers of the train and hundreds in the mob looked on.
The mob then proceeded to march six miles to the town jail where another Black man named Joe Watts was being held. Some newspapers reported that Mr. Watts was an alleged accomplice of Mr. Allen, while others noted Mr. Watts had been arrested for having “acted suspiciously” outside of a white man’s home, but had not been charged with a crime. The white mob stormed the jail without resistance from the jailers, removed Mr. Watts, and lynched him as well, hanging him to a tree and shooting him repeatedly. Both men had maintained that they were innocent, and contemporary newspapers reported that there was no evidence against them. [EJI article]
After Mr. Johnson was accused of assaulting a white girl, sheriff’s officials anticipated a lynch mob would form and moved him from Bluefield to Princeton. When the move was discovered, an armed mob of white men came to Princeton and seized Mr. Johnson. The local judge urged the mob to let the court conduct a “speedy trial,” and the state governor warned a lynching should not be allowed — but the mob was determined.
After kidnapping Mr. Johnson from police custody, the enraged mob beat Mr. Johnson with clubs and rocks, strung him to a telegraph pole “in the presence of the judge, sheriff, and armed guards” and shot him with hundreds of bullets. Despite their purported efforts to dissuade the mob, police did not attempt to use force to save Mr. Johnson’s life, and the judge did not order any members of the lynch mob arrested. [EJI article]
Rob Edwards lynched
September 10, 1912: a 24-year-old Black man named Rob Edwards was lynched and hung in downtown Cumming, Edwards was one of several Black men arrested on suspicion of involvement in the fatal assault of a young white woman named Mae Crow.
At least 2,000 white residents of Forsyth County formed a mob and stormed the jail. They found Edwards in his cell, brutally beat him with a crowbar, and shot him repeatedly. The mob then dragged Edwards through the streets to the town square, where they hung his mutilated body and left it on display. Subsequently, two Black teenagers who were also arrested for Mae Crow’s assault, Ernest Knox and Oscar Daniels, were convicted by all-white juries after trials that lasted one day each. They were hanged before thousands of white spectators.
Edwards’s lynching and the mob violence that followed terrorized the remaining 1,098 Black residents of Forsyth County, who fled the county in fear. The loss of Black-owned property in order to flee arbitrary mob violence was common during this era, and Forsyth’s Black residents left behind their homes and farms to escape, taking with them only what they could carry. Forsyth County would remain essentially all white until the 1990s.
No one was ever held accountable for Mr. Edwards’s lynching or the mass exodus of Black residents that followed. [EJI story] [video story]
March 31, 1914: a white lynch mob in Wagoner County, Oklahoma, seized a 17-year-old black teenaged girl named Marie Scott from the local jail, dragged her screaming from her cell, and hanged her from a nearby telephone pole. Days before, a young white man named Lemuel Pierce was stabbed to death while he and several other white men were in the city’s “colored section”; Marie was accused of being involved.
It is most likely that Scott (or her brother) was defending herself from a sexual assault by Pierce or others in the white group. [EJI article]
Marie Scott lynched
March 31, 1914: a white lynch mob in Wagoner County, Oklahoma, seized a 17-year-old black teenaged girl named Marie Scott from the local jail, dragged her screaming from her cell, and hanged her from a nearby telephone pole. Days before, a young white man named Lemuel Pierce was stabbed to death while he and several other white men were in the city’s “colored section”; Marie was accused of being involved.
It is most likely that Scott (or her brother) was defending herself from a sexual assault by Pierce or others in the white group. [EJI article]
Caesar Sheffield lynched
April 17, 1915: a mob of white men near Lake Park, Georgia took 17-year-old Black boy Caesar Sheffield from jail and shot him to death. Police had arrested Caesar for allegedly stealing meat from a smokehouse owned by a local white man.
When the mob took Caesar from the jail, prison officials had abandoned the building despite being charged with protecting those inside the jail, allowing the mob to easily force its way into the jail. The men took Caesar to a nearby field and shot him to death. His body was found later that day, riddled with bullets.
No arrests were made following his murder and no one was ever held accountable. [EJI article]
May 15, 1916: [From Equal Justice Initiative]: after an all-white jury convicted Jesse Washington of the murder of a white woman, he was taken from the courtroom and burned alive in front of a mob of 15,000.
When he was accused of killing his employer’s wife, seventeen-year-old Jesse Washington’ greatest fear was being brutally lynched – a common fate for black people accused of wrongdoing at that time, whether guilty or not. After he was promised protection against mob violence, Jesse, who suffered from intellectual disabilities, according to some reports, signed a statement confessing to the murder. On the morning of May 15, 1916, Washington was taken to court, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death in a matter of moments. Shortly before noon, spectators snatched him from the courtroom and dragged him outside, the “promise of protection” quickly forgotten.
The crowd that gathered to watch and/or participate in the brutal lynching grew to 15,000. Jesse Washington was chained to a car while members of the mob ripped off his clothes, cut off his ear, and castrated him. The angry mob dragged his body from the courthouse to City Hall and a fire was prepared while several assailants repeatedly stabbed him. When they tied Jesse Washington to the tree underneath the mayor’s window, the lynchers cut off his fingers to prevent him from trying to escape, then repeatedly lowered his lifeless body into the fire. At one point, a participant took a portion of Washington’s torso and dragged it through the streets of Waco. During the lynching, a professional photographer took photos which were later made into postcards.
Following news reports of the lynching, the NAACP hired a special investigator, Elizabeth Freeman. She was able to learn the names of the five mob leaders and also gathered evidence that local law enforcement had done nothing to prevent the lynching. Nevertheless, no one was ever prosecuted for their participation in the lynching of Jesse Washington.
After the lynching, the growing mob patrolled the town terrorizing other African Americans, threatening to lynch other black people they encountered – including those who attempted to cut down Mr. Johnson’s hanging corpse. Instead, the mob cut the dead body down, stripped off most of the clothing to keep as souvenirs, and then again hanged the corpse from the same pole.
According to press reports, authorities later acknowledged a growing possibility that Johnson had been wrongly identified and was innocent of the alleged assault. Nevertheless, a grand jury convened to investigate the murder declined to return a single indictment, and no one was ever arrested or prosecuted for his lynching.
August 19, 1916: five Black individuals—Andrew McHenry, Bert Dennis, John Haskins, Mary Dennis and Stella Young—were lynched by a mob of white people in Alachua County, Florida, while a Black man named James Dennis was also killed nearby by a “sheriff’s posse.” On the same day, almost 1,000 miles away, in Navarro County, Texas, Edward Lang, a 21-year-old Black man was lynched by a mob of 200 white people.
On August 18, in Jonesville, Florida, a Black man by the name of Boisey Long was accused of murdering the local constable. When Mr. Long went missing, word spread that four Black men—Andrew McHenry, Bert Dennis, James Dennis, and John Haskins—and two Black women—Mary Dennis and Stella Young—had allegedly aided Mr. Long in an escape. On Saturday, August 19, a mob of white people captured Andrew McHenry, Bert Dennis, John Haskins, Mary Dennis, and Stella Young, and lynched them. According to reports, on the same day James Dennis was captured and killed by a “sheriff’s posse.”
Edward Lang was accused of assaulting a young white woman near the town of Rice in Navarro County, Texas. A mob of white people captured Mr. Lang four miles from where the alleged attack took place and handed him over to the sheriff. However, before Mr. Lang could be tried, on that same day, an unmasked and armed mob of 200 white farmers seized him from the jail, and hung Mr. Lang to a telephone pole. [EJI story]
William Spencer lynched
October 4, 1916: William Spencer, a 30-year-old Black man and a husband and father of four children, was lynched by a white mob near Graceton, Texas. Mr. Spencer, who was a farmhand, had a confrontation with the constable and was arrested and taken to a local jail, where a white mob seized and lynched him. [EJI article]
July 28, 1917: up to 10,000 African Americans silently paraded down New York City’s Fifth Avenue to protest lynchings in the South and race Revolts in the North. The NAACP and Harlem leaders organized the protest as the U.S. was going to fight “for democracy” in World War I. One parade banner read: “Mr. President, why not make America safe for democracy?” [HuffPost article]
Leonidas C Dyer
In April 1918: Congressman Leonidas C. Dyer (R-Missouri) introduced an anti-lynching bill in the House of Representatives, based on a bill drafted by NAACP founder Albert E. Pillsbury in 1901. The bill called for the prosecution of lynchers in federal court. State officials who failed to protect lynching victims or prosecute lynchers could face five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The victim’s heirs could recover up to $10,000 from the county where the crime occurred. (Bio Guide dot Congress bio)
Hayes Turner lynched
May 18, 1918: Hampton Smith was a farmer in Valdosta, Georgia. He often He found labor by paying fines and then forcing the person to work on his farm. He was notorious for abusing those workers. On May 16, someone killed him. A Sidney Johnson was a suspect. During the manhunt for Johnson, at least 13 people were killed. Among those killed was Hayes Turner, who was seized from custody after his arrest on the morning of May 18, 1918, and lynched. [Black Then article]
Mary Turner Lynched
May 19, 1918: Mary Turner the 8-month pregnant wife of Hayes Turner, publicly denounced her husband’s lynching the previous day. A mob hung her upside down from a tree, doused her in gasoline and motor oil, and set her on fire. While Turner was still alive, a member of the mob split her abdomen open with a knife. Her unborn child fell on the ground, where it cried before it was stomped on and crushed. Finally, Turner’s body was riddled with hundreds of bullets. Mary Turner and her child were cut down and buried near the tree. A whiskey bottle marked the grave. No charges were ever brought against the known or suspected participants in these crimes. [Miami Herald article]
July 29, 1918: in response to the increase of racially motivated killings (83 lynchings were recorded in 1918 alone), the National Liberty Congress of Colored Americans asked Congress to make lynching a federal crime. Despite attempts over the next several decades, anti-lynching legislation never passed. (Black In Time article)
Omaha, Nebraska race revolt
September 28, 1919: a major race riot erupted in Omaha, Nebraska. A white mob of about 4,000 people lynched and burned the body of Willie Brown, an African-American who was being held in the county jail. The mayor of Omaha, who was white, was almost lynched by the mob, which set fire to the county courthouse.
The origin of the revolt lay in racial conflict in the extensive city stockyards and meat packing plants. (A similar conflict underlay the East St. Louis race revolt that began on July 2, 1917.) Rumors that Willie Brown had raped a white woman spurred the lynching. Later reports by the police and U.S. Army investigators determined that the victim had not made a positive identification. The riot lasted for two days, and ended when over 1,200 federal troops arrived to restore order. Although martial law was not formally proclaimed, for all practical purposes it existed, with troops remaining in the city for several weeks. [Black Past article]
White mobs descended on the black town destroying homes and businesses and attacking anyone in their path. Terrified black residents, including women, children, and the elderly, fled their homes and hid for their lives in nearby woods and fields. A responding federal troop regiment claimed only two black people were killed but many reports challenged the white soldiers’ credibility and accused them of participating in the massacre. Today, historians estimate hundreds of black people were killed in the massacre. .
When the violence was quelled, sixty-seven black people were arrested and charged with inciting violence, while dozens more faced other charges. No white attackers were prosecuted, but twelve black union members convicted of riot-related charges were sentenced to death. The NAACP represented the men on appeal and successfully obtained reversals of all of their death sentences.
October 1, 1919: a race riot broke out in Elaine, Arkansas. Black sharecroppers were meeting in the local chapter of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America. Planters opposed their efforts to organize for better terms and the sharecroppers had been warned of trouble. A white man intent on arresting a black bootlegger approached the lookouts defending the meeting, and was shot. The planters formed a militia to attack the African-American farmers. In the ensuing riot they killed between 100 and 200 blacks, and five whites also died. [Black Past article]
Powell Green lynched
December 27, 1919: after a “prominent” white movie theater owner was shot and killed, authorities arrested 23-year-old African American veteran Powell Green for allegedly committing the crime. While policemen were moving Powell Green from the jail in Franklinton, North Carolina to the larger city of Raleigh, before he could be tried or mount a defense, a mob kidnapped and brutally killed him.
The mob tied Green to a car and dragged him for half a mile before shooting him with dozens of bullets and hanging his body
Newspaper sources suggest this was the case in the lynching of Powell Green; one witness reportedly testified that, though there were five officers in the police vehicle transporting Mr. Green, he was “taken from the car [by the mob] without the least trouble.”
Green’s corpse was found the next morning riddled with bullets and hanged from a small pine tree along a road two miles from Franklinton. According to press accounts, “souvenir hunters” cut buttons and pieces of clothing from the body and later cut down the tree to yield grotesque keepsakes. [EJI article]
Duluth, Minnesota lynching
June 15, 1920: a mob in Duluth, Minnesota attacked and lynched three African American circus workers. Rumors had circulated that six African Americans had raped and robbed a teenage girl. A physician’s examination subsequently found no evidence of rape or assault. [Minnesota Historical Society article]
White terrorist vigilantism
October 5, 1920: four black men were killed in Macclenny, Florida, following the death of a prominent young white local farmer named John Harvey. According to news reports at the time, Harvey was shot and killed at a turpentine camp near MacClenny on October 4, 1920. The suspected shooter, a young black man named Jim Givens, fled immediately afterward and mobs of armed white men formed to pursue him. Givens’s brother and two other black men connected to him were questioned and jailed during the search, though there was no evidence or accusation that they had been involved in the killing of Harvey.
Those three men – Fulton Smith, Ray Field, and Ben Givens – were held in the Baker County Jail late into the night until, around 1:00 a.m. on October 5, a mob of about 50 white men overtook the jail and seized the men from their cells. The mob forced the men to the outskirts of town, where they were tied to trees and shot to death. A fourth lynching victim, Sam Duncan, was found shot to death nearby later in the day. Also with no alleged ties to the killing of John Harvey, Duncan was thought to be an unfortunate soul who had encountered a mob seeking Jim Givens and been killed simply for being a black man.
Three days later, the Chicago Defender, a Northern black newspaper, reported that most of the black community of Macclenny had deserted the area in fear of further violent attacks while whites posses continued to search for Jim Givens. [EJI article]
William Anderson lynched
March 4, 1921: a white mob in Baker County, Georgia searching the area to find and lynch a Black man named Zema Anthony came upon a Black man named William Anderson walking down the road and lynched him instead.
Two days before, allegations had spread that Mr. Anthony had killed a white sheriff and shot another white man in the town of Newton, Georgia. Without investigation or trial, a mob of white men intent on lynching him gathered and began searching the county with no success. After more than a day of the fruitless manhunt, the heavily armed white mob confronted Anderson as he was simply walking down the road. Terrified, Anderson ran from the mob and the white men quickly shot him to death.
Shortly after Anderson was killed, the body of his aunt was reportedly found floating in a stream. At least one newspaper reported that the same lynch mob had likely killed the Black woman for allegedly harboring Mr. Anthony and helping him to avoid capture. The press coverage did not report her name. [EJI article] (next BH & next Lynching, see Apr 5, or for for expanded chronology, see American Lynching 2)
April 5, 1921: although the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery, African Americans continued to be held as de facto slaves in systems of peonage, a form of debt bondage. “Peons” or indentured servants owed money to their “masters” and were forced to work off their debt, a process that took years. A federal law passed in 1867 prohibited peonage but the practice continued for decades throughout the South. It was notoriously difficult to prosecute those who violated the federal law and those who were prosecuted were often acquitted by sympathetic juries.
Fear of a peonage prosecution led to a brutal spree of murders in rural Georgia in 1921. John Williams, a local white plantation owner, held blacks on his farm against their will in horrific, slavery-like conditions. After federal investigators suspected that Williams was violating the peonage law, Williams decided to get rid of the “evidence” of his crime by killing eleven black men whom he had been working as peons. Williams’s trial began on April 5, 1921, and four days later he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison several years later.
Following the murders by Williams and other local atrocities against black people, Georgia Governor Hugh Dorsey in 1921 released a pamphlet entitled “A Statement from Governor Hugh M. Dorsey as to the Negro in Georgia.” Dorsey had collected 135 cases of mistreatment of blacks in the previous two years, including lynchings, extensive peonage, and general hostility. Dorsey recommended several remedies, including compulsory education for both races; a state commission to investigate lynchings; and penalties for counties where lynchings occurred. Reflecting on the mob violence that had become common throughout the South, Dorsey wrote, “To me it seems that we stand indicted as a people before the world.”
In response, several officials denied the charges contained in the pamphlet and many Georgians called for Dorsey’s impeachment.
Tulsa Race Riot
May 31 and June 1, 1921: The Tulsa Race Riot was a large-scale racially motivated conflict in which whites attacked the Tulsa, Oklahoma black community of the Greenwood District, also known as ‘the Black Wall Street’ and the wealthiest African-American community in the United States, being burned to the ground. During the 16 hours of the assault, over 800 people were admitted to local hospitals with injuries, and more than 6,000 Greenwood residents were arrested and detained. An estimated 10,000 blacks were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire.
And among its many other works, the EJI posts a daily article about equal justice in America.
Those posts are the foundation of this blog piece.
It is not comfortable reading.
It is nota complete list.
Knights of the White Camelia
September 28, 1868: one of the worst outbreaks of violence during Reconstruction took place in Opelousas, La. The event started with three local members of the KKK-like Knights of the White Cameliabeating newspaper editor Emerson Bentley, who had promoted voter registration and education for all. After some African Americans came to his rescue, bands of armed white mobs roamed the countryside and began killing. More than 200 African Americans and 30 whites died in the Opelousas Massacre, according to estimates. [Smithsonian story]
Never Forget American Lynching
August 26, 1874: sixteen African American men were held in the Gibson County Jail in Trenton, Tennessee, transferred from Picketsville, a neighboring town where they’d been arrested and accused of shooting at two white men.
Around 2:00 a.m. that morning, 400 – 500 masked men, mounted on horses and armed with shot guns, demanded entrance to the Gibson County Jail. The men confronted the jailer and threatened to kill him if he did not relinquish the keys to the cell holding the men. After the jailer gave the leader of the mob the key, the members of the mob bound the men by their hands and led them out of the jail cell. The jailer would later testify that he soon heard a series of gun shots in the distance.
Upon investigation soon after the kidnapping, the jailer found six of the men lying along nearby Huntingdon Road – four were dead, their bodies “riddled with bullets.” Two of the men, found wounded but alive, later died before receiving medical attention. The bodies of the ten remaining men were later found at the bottom of a river about one mile from town.
Local white officials denounced the lynching and held an inquest that concluded the men were killed by “shots inflicted by guns in the hands of unknown parties.” The town mayor also expressed local whites’ fears that black people throughout the county were arming themselves in plans to exact retaliatory violence. Just one day after the mass murder of sixteen black men by hundreds of white men who remained unidentified and free, the mayor ordered police to take all guns belonging to Trenton’s black residents and threatened to shoot those who resisted.
August 30, 1874: Thomas Abney chose a guard of about twenty-five men, the prisoners and with guards began to walk toward Shreveport. That afternoon, still twenty miles below Shreveport guards at the rear of the group spied forty or fifty heavily armed riders in hot pursuit.
The pursuers were led by a mysterious “Captain Jack”—his real name Dick Coleman—about whom almost nothing is known except that he liked to kill Republicans. Captain Jack’s gang overtook the train, crying out to the guards, “Clear the track,” or die with the prisoners. Dewees, Homer Twitchell, and Sheriff Edgerton died in the first hail of bullets. The lynch mob took Howell, Willis, and Holland prisoner, then executed them in cold blood. At no point did the guards make any effort to protect the prisoners.
South of Coushatta, whites seized a black leader named Levin Allen, broke his arms and legs, and burned him alive.
January 22, 1883: in 1876, Crockett County, Tennessee, Sheriff R. G. Harris and nineteen armed men had removed four African Americans, Robert Smith, William Overton, George Wells, Jr., and P.M. Wells, from the local jail and beat them, killing one.
Federal prosecutors brought criminal charges against Sheriff Harris and his accomplices under the Force Act of 1871, commonly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act or the Civil Rights Act of 1871. Introduced by progressive Republicans to extend the protection of federal law to African Americans in states that refused to protect them from racial terror and violence, the act made it a federal crime for individuals to conspire for the purpose of depriving others of their right to the equal protection of the law.
On January 22, 1883, the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Harris dismissed the indictments against the sheriff and his accomplices and declared that the Force Act was unconstitutional because the Fourteenth Amendment limited Congress to taking remedial steps against state action that violated the Fourteenth Amendment and applied only to acts by states, not to acts of individuals.
Harris dealt a devastating blow to congressional efforts to combat the widespread violence and terrorism targeting black Southerners during Reconstruction and left African Americans unprotected against lynching.
1887 – 1898
Never Forget American Lynching
November 1, 1887: thirty-seven Black striking Louisiana sugar workers are murdered when Louisiana militia, aided by bands of “prominent citizens,” shoot unarmed workers trying to get a dollar-per-day wage. Two strike leaders are lynched.
Walter Asbury lynched
August 18, 1889: a mob in Chatham County, Georgia lynched Walter Asbury after a young woman accused him of assaulting her. Without any evidence linking him to the crime, the mob of 300 white men in the town of Pooler captured Mr. Asbury and took him to an open field. They hanged him next to a railroad track, 10 miles west of Savannah, and riddled his body with bullets. Before his lynching, newspapers reported that Mr. Asbury asked for time to pray and in the final moments, begged that word be sent to his wife.
In an effort to terrorize the Black community, his body was left hanging all day with a sign that read: “This is the way we protect our homes.” [EJI article]
Orion “Owen” Anderson
November 8, 1889: group of 40 white men took 18-year-old black Orion “Owen” Anderson from jail in Leesburg, Virginia and lynched him. Anderson was alleged to have worn a sack on his head and frightened the daughter of a prominent white man on her walk to school.
Though there were no witnesses to the “incident” and the girl could not identify her “attacker,” Anderson was arrested after a sack was found near him. He was jailed under accusation of attempted assault, and later reports claimed he confessed.
The vigilante group all wore wore. They took Anderson from his cell, carried him to the freight depot of the Richmond & Danville Railroad, hanged him, and shot his body full of bullets.
Leesburg’s newspaper, the Mirror, reported the lynching on November 14th, calling it “a terrible warning,” and stating, “The fate of the self-confessed author of the outrage should serve as a terrible admonition to the violators of the law for the protection of female virtue.”
March 9, 1892: three young black men, Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Henry Steward, had opened the People’s Grocery Company in Memphis, Tennessee. Located across the street from a white-owned grocery store that had been the local black community’s only option, the new business reduced the white store’s profits and threatened the racial order by forcing whites to compete economically with blacks.
A white mob formed, intent on using force to put the black grocery out of business, and the black grocers armed themselves for defense. When the mob attacked, shots were fired and three white men were wounded. Moss, McDowell, and Steward were arrested and sensational newspaper reports published the next day fanned the flames of racial outrage. On March 9, 1892, a white mob stormed the Memphis jail, seized all three men and brutally lynched them. No one was punished for the killings.
Ida B. Wells, a 29-year-old black schoolteacher and journalist living in Memphis, was a friend of the three murdered men and was deeply impacted by their deaths. She published an editorial urging local blacks to “save our money and leave a town which will neither protect our lives and property, nor give us a fair trial in the courts, but takes us out and murders us in cold blood when accused by white persons.” As a result, a white mob destroyed her office and printing press. The mob had intended to lynch her but she was visiting Philadelphia at the time. More than 6000 African Americans heeded her call. Ms. Wells would devote her entire life to documenting and challenging the injustice of lynching through research, writing, speaking, and activism.
Isaac Brandon lynched
April 6, 1892: a mob of at least 80 white men broke into the jail in Charles City, Virginia, removed Isaac Brandon, a Black man, from his cell, ignoring the pleas of his young son, and lynched him on the courthouse lawn.
A few days prior, several white women alleged that a Black man had broken into their home and tried to assault them. When news of this event spread, suspicion quickly turned to Brandon. Allegations against Black people were rarely subject to scrutiny.
Isaac was promptly arrested and brought to the jail. Although no evidence linked him or his young son—whose name is not recorded in contemporary newspapers—to the alleged crime, both of them were arrested and held for several days in the jail.
On the evening of April 6, a mob of at least 80 white men arrived at the home of the sheriff and shared their plan to lynch Mr. Brandon. Although he was armed and charged with protecting those in his custody, the sheriff failed to protect Mr. Brandon or his son from the mob’s actions and the mob successfully broke through the jailhouse door without incident.
Mr. Brandon and his young son pleaded with the mob not to carry out the lynching as Mr. Brandon maintained his innocence, stating to the mob: “You are going to hang an innocent man.” Mr. Brandon’s young son clung to his father as the mob bound Mr. Brandon’s hands before his son was forced back into the jail cell as the mob took his father away. The mob hanged Mr. Brandon to a tree on the courthouse lawn.
Mr. Brandon’s body was left hanging outside the courthouse until the next morning, and contemporary accounts noted that members of the Black community were forced to bear witness to Mr. Brandon’s body in the town square. [EJI article]
Henry & Ephraim Grizzard lynched
April 27, 1892: two white girls reported that black men had assaulted them. Four or five black men were quickly arrested and taken to jail, including Ephraim Grizzard, and his brothers Henry and John. On this date, a mob seized and lynched Henry Grizzard.
April 30, 1892: a white mob lynched an African American man named Ephraim Grizzard in Nashville, Tennessee, just days after the lynching of his brother, Henry. In the middle of the afternoon, the unmasked mob dragged Ephraim Grizzard from the Nashville jail, stripped him naked, beat and stabbed him severely, and then hanged him from the Woodland Street Bridge. As Grizzard’s corpse swayed in the air, members of the mob riddled his body with bullets. Thousands of spectators viewed the brutal scene as Mr. Grizzard’s mutilated body was reportedly left on display for almost ninety minutes.
October 13, 1892: a large white lynch mob killed Burrell Jones, Moses Jones, Jim Packard, and an unidentified fourth victim – all young black men – outside Monroeville, Alabama. News reports from the time vary greatly in listing the young men’s names and ages, but several reports indicate that the eldest of the four was nineteen years old, and that at least one of the others may have been as young as fifteen.
A couple of days before the lynchings, a white farmer and his daughter were murdered and their home set on fire. In the aftermath, nearly a dozen African American men and boys were arrested, jailed, and accused of committing or being an accomplice to the crime.
After law enforcement officials were able to coerce one of the accused into giving a “confession” that implicated three others, all four young men were declared suspects.
Once news of the “confession” spread, a mob of white men from Monroeville and surrounding communities went to the jail and demanded a lynching. In response, law enforcement officials handed the four young black men over to the mob. The mob took them just outside the city, near a bridge over Flat Creek, and hanged and shot all four young men to death. According to various news reports, the corpses “were cut down as soon as life was extinct and the bodies torn to pieces by the maddened mob,” then piled in “a large heap” and burned.
Henry Smith lynched
February 1, 1893: accused of raping and murdering a four-year-old girl, a posse hunted down Henry Smith was hunted down by a posse.
When returned to town, the local citizens proudly announced they would burn him alive. That boast was reported in news stories which traveled by telegraph and appeared in newspapers from coast to coast.
The killing of Smith was carefully orchestrated. On February 1, 1893, the townspeople constructed a large wooden platform near the center of town. And in view of thousands of spectators, Smith was tortured with hot irons for nearly an hour before being soaked with kerosene and set ablaze.
The extreme nature of Smith’s killing, and a celebratory parade that preceded it, received attention which included an extensive front-page account in the New York Times. And the noted anti-lynching journalist Ida B. Wells wrote about the Smith lynching in her landmark book, The Red Record.
“Never in the history of civilization has any Christian people stooped to such shocking brutality and indescribable barbarism as that which characterized the people of Paris, Texas, and adjacent communities on the first of February, 1893.”
Photographs of the torture and burning of Smith were taken and were later sold as prints and postcards. And according to some accounts, his agonized screams were recorded on a primitive graphophone and later played before audiences as images of his killing were projected on a screen. [ThoughtCo story]
Sam Bush lynched
June 3, 1893: a mob lynched a Black man named Sam Bush (had allegedly sexually assaulted a white woman) on the courthouse lawn in Decatur, Illinois. About 500 white people had descended upon the jail and 25 unmasked white men broke into the jail. Although multiple jailers were on duty and charged with protecting the men and women in their custody, they neglected to use any type of force to ward off the mob, who, for 20 minutes, sought to break down Mr. Bush’s jail cell door with hammers and chisels.
By the time Bush was brought outside, 1,500 white people had gathered in front of a telegraph post directly in front of the courthouse lawn to lynch him. In the final moments of Bush’s life, he knelt to pray and, according to newspapers, called “on Jesus to come and take his soul and forgive the men who were murdering him.” The mob then stripped Mr. Bush of his clothes, forced him atop a car, and hanged him.
Following the lynching, members of the mob distributed pieces of the rope used to hang Mr. Bush to the crowd as “souvenirs”—among those in the crowd were doctors, lawyers, and at least one minister. [EJI article]
Seay J. Miller lynched
July 7, 1893: a crowd of over 5,000 white people lynched a Black man named Seay J. Miller in Bardwell, Kentucky, for allegedly killing Mary and Ruby Ray, two young white girls, despite ample evidence of his innocence.
Statements from Mr. Miller’s wife and from law enfocement witnesses indicated that Mr. Miller was not even in Kentucky on the date the girls were killed, and multiple eyewitnesses identified the Ray girls’ killer as a white man. Even John Ray, the girls’ father, was unconvinced of Mr. Miller’s guilt. Frank Gordon was the sole witness who implicated Mr. Miller, but he originally told police that the person he saw was a white man—as did other witnesses. Mr. Gordon changed his statement only after the county sheriff threatened to charge him as an accomplice if he did not do so. This same sheriff handed Mr. Miller over to a crowd of thousands of white citizens to be lynched.
Around 3 pm, the heavily-armed mob hanged Mr. Miller from a telephone pole, shot hundreds of bullets into his body, then left his corpse hanging from the pole for hours. Afterward, white people cut off his fingers, toes, and ears as “souvenirs,” and then burned Mr. Miller’s body in a public fire. [EJI article]
Bob Hudson killed
October 9, 1893: according to reports, in Weakley County, Tennessee the wife of a Bob Hudson, both African-American, had filed charges of assault and battery against a white man, who was subsequently arrested and fined
On this date, ten masked white men dragged Mrs. Hudson from her home and whipped her severely. When Bob Hudson ran to his wife’s defense, the mob shot and killed him. Including Bob Hudson, at least five African American victims of racial terror lynching were killed in Weakley County, Tennessee, between 1877 and 1950. [EJI story]
Interracial Couple lynched
January 12, 1896: a mob of twenty men gathered around the home of Patrick and Charlotte “Lottie” Morris in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, and set it ablaze. Mr. Morris, a white railroad hand, and his wife, a black woman, had garnered the ill will of the community “on account of their difference in color” as well as their operation of a gathering place and hotel for black people.
The mob first attempted to burn down the Morris’ home at 11:00 that night, but Mr. Morris discovered the fire and extinguished it. By midnight, the mob set a fire that could not be controlled. When the couple attempted to escape the flames through the front door of their home they were met with a barrage of gunfire. Mrs. Morris was shot and killed at the doorstep while Mr. Morris was maimed by a shot to his leg.
The Morris’ twelve-year-old son witnessed the events and escaped through the back door of the home. As the boy ran for safety, the mob shot into the darkness after him but missed. Patrick Morris Jr. spent the night hiding underneath a nearby home in the neighborhood.
The next morning, community members found that much of the Morris’s home had been destroyed by the fire. Mr. and Mrs. Morris’s charred remains were found on their bed inside the home. A coroner’s examination revealed that one of the bodies had been decapitated, though it was unclear whether this act was carried out before or after death. Charlotte Morris was sixty-eight years old and Patrick Morris was fifty-eight years old. [Black Then article]
Sidney Randolph lynched
July 4, 1896: Sidney Randolph, a native of Georgia in his mid-twenties, was lynched in Rockville, Maryland on July 4, 1896 by an officially-unidentified group of white men from Montgomery County. The full story of Sidney Randolph’s murder was connected to the mystery involving an axe-wielding attack on the Buxton family of Gaithersburg in May of that same year, and the subsequent death of the youngest child, Sadie Buxton. Though professional detectives were brought in from both Washington and Baltimore to investigate the case, local residents of Gaithersburg took it upon themselves to find and/or create circumstantial evidence implicating Sidney Randolph, a stranger to the area who had no motive and consistently maintained his innocence. Removed to the jail in Baltimore to avoid an immediate lynching, Randolph survived repeated interrogations while imprisoned from May 25 until July 4, when a masked mob of white men dragged him from his cell in the Rockville jail, brutally beat him, and hanged him from a tree just outside of town along Route 355. His murderers were never identified or brought to justice for this crime. [Montgomery History article]
William Wardley Lynched
December 7, 1896: William Wardley, a Black man, was lynched by an armed mob of white Irondale residents. That day, Mr. Wardley, along with two companions, attempted to purchase apples from a local grocery store. The merchant refused to accept Mr. Wardley’s money because he assumed it was counterfeit..
Based on this accusation, a mob that included a local minister and a police constable pursued Mr. Wardley and his companions before fatally shooting Mr. Wardley. His body was later found along a railroad track a little over a mile outside of town. His two companions survived.
After the lynching of Mr. Wardley, the U.S. Treasury Department investigated the counterfeit claim and proved the money was real. However, the Treasury Department’s report did not mention Mr. Wardley’s death, and white residents continued to maintain the false counterfeit claim to justify the mob’s violent actions. The local press, sympathetic to the mob, reported that Mr. Wardley caused his own death to avoid capture by the authorities. No one was ever held accountable for William Wardley’s lynching. [EJI article]
February 22, 1898: Frazier Baker, an African American who had recently been appointed postmaster of Lake City, S.C., and his infant daughter, Julia, were killed and his wife and three other daughters were maimed for life when a lynch mob set after them. Citizens of the small town of 500 residents set fire to the post office, where the Bakers lived, and shot them as they ran out.
John Henry James
July 12, 1898: a Black man named John Henry James was lynched near Charlottesville, Virginia after being falsely accused of assaulting a white woman. Although at least 150 unmasked white men were involved in the lynching – and the police chief and county sheriff were present when Mr. James was lynched – no one was ever held accountable for his killing. Mr. James’s lynching was later celebrated by several hundred more white people who gathered to see his body as it was left hanging for hours. [EJI article]
Never Forget American Lynching
1897 – 1898
Charles Lewis Lynched
December 10, 1897: in Lawrence County, Mississippi a white family was found murdered. A surviving 5-year-old child claimed a black man did it. Officials brought several black male “suspects” before her and she identified one — a man named Charles Lewis — as the perpetrator. A mob of hundreds immediately formed and lynched Lewis.
Although early accounts alleged only one perpetrator, the white community was unsatisfied to lynch only one man, and continued to “investigate” the white family’s murders.
December 15, 1897: a group of 30 white men approached a group of black men, including an acquaintance of Charles Lewis and coerced him into saying that a man named Tom Waller had also been involved in the crime. Though another man in the group insisted this was not true, the unsubstantiated allegation was enough to seal Mr. Waller’s fate.
Soon after he was taken into custody, a growing mob of 400 people seized Waller from law enforcement and conducted a “sham trial”; newspapers reported that several men “held court under a tree,” where Waller was interrogated as a rope was placed around his neck. Some men reportedly suggested that the “trial” be delayed a week because the “evidence” was so scant, but the rest of mob rejected that idea and instead insisted that Waller be lynched that night.
Newspapers later explained that the mob preferred to lynch Mr. Waller immediately because waiting “meant standing guard all night in the cold, and most of those present did not relish this at all.”
As the hundreds of white men in the mob grew “hungry,” press accounts described, “a wagon load of provisions” including fish and lobster was brought forward and everyone “indulged in a hearty supper” before continuing their deadly plan.
The mob ultimately hanged Tom Waller on the night of December 15th, on the same hill where Mr. Lewis had been lynched five days earlier, and left his body hanging until 10am the next morning.
Frazier Baker Lynched
February 22, 1898: Frazier Baker, an African American who had recently been appointed postmaster of Lake City, S.C., and his infant daughter, Julia, were killed and his wife and three other daughters were maimed for life when a lynch mob set after them. Citizens of the small town of 500 residents set fire to the post office, where the Bakers lived, and shot them as they ran out. [Black Past article]
August 10, 1898: a white mob seized Will Sanders, Rilla Weaver, Dennis Ricord, and Manse Castle from a jail in Clarendon, Arkansas, and lynched them before they could stand trial.
A few weeks prior, a white woman named Erneze Orr allegedly hired the four to kill her husband, John T. Orr. After the four were arrested for this alleged offense, a mob of white community members quickly formed—and on three separate occasions, the mob convened at the jail intent on lynching them. Despite these repeated threats, officers refused to move the group to a safer location as they awaited trial.
On August 10, the white mob stormed the jail a final time. Rather than protecting the people in his custody, the sheriff turned the jail keys over to the mob. Newspapers reported that he had been persuaded to open the jail doors and let the mob enter “by their earnestness.”
Mrs. Orr, the white woman who allegedly orchestrated her husband’s murder, was also being held at the jail. She reportedly poisoned herself shortly before the mob’s arrival. Though contemporary reports note that she was still alive when the mob stormed the jail, the mob left her and took only the four Black people from the jail.
The mob hung Mr. Sanders, Ms. Weaver, Mr. Ricord, and Mr. Castle from the tramway of a nearby sawmill with signs affixed to them that read “This is the penalty for murder and rape.” Their bodies were then left on display for hours to terrorize the entire Black community. [EJI article]
Never Forget American Lynching
Sam Hose lynched
April 23, 1899: Sam Hose had been employed by a wealthy white man named Alfred Cranford in Newnan, Georgia. Cranford owed Hose money but refused to pay him and as arguments escalated between the two men, Cranford bought a gun and threatened Hose. When Cranford was killed soon after, Hose was accused of killing the white man and assaulting his wife.
A $500 reward was posted for Hose’s capture and hundreds of white residents launched what was described as the “largest manhunt in the state’s history.” Local newspapers published sensationalized accounts of the allegations against Hose, dehumanizing him and reinforcing dangerous racial stereotypes of Black men as predators.
He was captured and because Governor Candler had ordered out the troops, the mob decided that the execution needed to take place immediately and within minutes, Sam Hose was hanging from a tree. Hose’s execution was extremely brutal. He initially refused to confess, but after his ears were cut from his head, he claimed responsibility for the crimes. The Atlanta Constitution reported that 2000 witnesses watched as he was burned alive and his body cut and mutilated. Peculiarly, the man responsible for dousing Hose’s body and clothes in kerosene was a stranger from the North, who was reported as saying that, though he did not know how people from his part of the country would respond to this, he felt the need to avenge the terrible crimes that had been committed. Even Hose’s bones were taken from the scene as souvenirs.
Lije Strickland and Albert Sewell lynched
April 24, 1899: at some point during his lynching, Sam Hose (see above) was said to have implicated Lije Strickland, a preacher, in the murder. That same night, the same mob fell upon Rev. Strickland and despite pleas and explanations from the plantation owner Major Thomas who repeatedly vouched for Strickland’s innocence, a crowd took Strickland. Despite Thomas’s repeated pleadings and insistence of his innocence from Strickland himself, he was murdered.
The Detroit Evening News reported, “The body of Lige Strickland, the negro who was implicated in the Cranford murder by Sam Hose, was found this morning swinging to the limb of a persimmon tree…. Before death was allowed to end the sufferings of the Negro, his ears were cut off and the small finger of his left hand was severed at the second joint. One of these trophies was in Palmetto to-day. On the chest of the Negro was a scrap of blood-stained paper, attached with an ordinary pin. On one side this paper contained the following: “We must protect our Ladies.”
The same day, the crowd also sought out and lynched an Albert Sewell, a Black man, who had reportedly voiced a negative view of the Hose and Strickland lynchings. [Times-Herald article]
Mitchell Daniel lynched
April 27, 1899: a Black man named Mitchell Daniel was lynched by a white mob in Lee County, Georgia, for “talking too much” about the brutal lynching of Sam Hose four days earlier.
As a Black community leader, Daniel reportedly spoke out against the injustice of lynching and denounced Hose’s fate. This soon made him a target.
And on April 27 Mitchell Daniel’s dead body was discovered on the side of a Lee County, Georgia, road—riddled with bullets. Sparse local news reports attributed the lynching to Mr. Daniel’s white neighbors, but no one was ever held accountable for his death.
Day of Fasting
June 4, 1899: the Afro-American Council declared a national day of fasting to protest lynching and violence against African Americans.
Frank Embree lynched
July 22, 1899: a white mob abducted Frank Embree from officers transporting him to stand trial and lynched him in front of a crowd of over 1,000 onlookers in Fayette, Missouri.
About one month earlier, Frank Embree had been arrested and accused of assaulting a white girl. Though he was scheduled to stand trial on July 22, the town’s residents grew impatient and decided to take “justice” into their own hands by lynching Mr. Embree instead.
According to newspaper accounts, the mob attacked officers transporting Embree, seized him, and loaded him into a wagon, then drove him to the site of the alleged assault. Once there, Mr. Embree’s captors immediately tried to extract a confession by stripping him naked and whipping him in front of the assembled crowd, but he steadfastly maintained his innocence despite this abuse. After withstanding more than one hundred lashes to his body, Embree began screaming and told the men that he would confess. Rather than plead for his life, Embree begged his attackers to stop the torture and kill him swiftly. Covered in blood from the whipping, with no courtroom or legal system in sight, Embree offered a confession to the waiting lynch mob and was immediately hanged from a tree.