Lynched for Insulting a White Woman; Stealing Shoes; and Three Burned at the Stake – This Week in Historical Lynchings

This week, we’ll take a closer look at some of the sixty or so racially-motivated lynchings of black Americans that took place between May 2 and May 8. Included is the lynching of a railroad porter for the crime of “insulting” a white woman. Another was lynched for stealing shoes and threatening white people. We’ll also list the more than sixty other lynchings from this week in history. But first, we’ll begin with a May 1922 triple-lynching in Texas.

Between the Civil War and World War II, the black community, especially in the South, was terrorized by an epidemic of lynchings. As opposed to public executions, the point of lynching was to avoid the court of law, judge and jury. Often times, the victim, in a holding cell for an offense, was kidnapped by a mob before even being arraigned. According to a recent report issued by the Equal Justice Initiate, there were 4,075 lynchings of black Americans across the South between 1877 and 1950. 1In this case, “The South” pertains to the dozen states where the most lynchings occurred: Mississippi (614), Georgia (595), Louisiana (559), Arkansas (491), Alabama (363), Texas (344), Florida (307), Tennessee (238), South Carolina (184), Kentucky (170), North Carolina (122), and Virginia (88). See the EJI site here.

Postcard made to celebrate the triple lynching/burned in Kirvin, Texas.
Postcard made to celebrate the triple lynching in Kirvin, Texas.

Triple Lynching; Three Mutilated and Burned in Town Square Before Mob of 500 (1922)

What follows are several articles detailing not only the triple-lynching in Kirvin, Texas, but the apprehension of the men most likely responsible for the heinous crime of which the three black men were accused. Additionally, another was lynched – seemingly just for good measure.

Los Angeles Evening Herald , May 6, 1922.
Los Angeles Evening Herald , May 6, 1922.

Triple Lynching Follows Thrilling Texas Man-hunt
Kirvin, Tex., May 6 – Three colored men were burned here at dawn for the murder of Eula Ausley, pretty 17-year-old school girl, whose body was found near here yesterday with thirty stab wounds. The three men were tied, one after another, to the seat of a cultivator, driven into teh center of the city square and burned before a mob of 500.

“Shap” (or Snap) Curry, 26, Mose Jones, 44, and John Cornish, 19, were the victims. All three worked on the huge ranch of John King, the girl’s grandfather. Curry was burned first. There was some delay in starting inasmuch as the men maintained their innocence to the last. Third degree methods failed to bring confessions.

The men were not shot but their bodies were mutilated prior to burning. Ears, toes and fingers were snipped off. Eyes were gouged out. No organ of the negroes was allowed to remain protruding.

After this preliminary mob vengeance, preachers from the two churches which flank the square came forward and prayed for the salvation of the blacks’ souls.

New York World, May 7, 1922. Burned.
New York World, May 7, 1922.

As Curry was saturated with oil and set aflame, he changed over and over again, “O Lord, I’m acomin.” 2Some other sources, claim he said “Oh Lord, I’m cooking.” He also supposedly named names, but since those he named were already captured and about to be lynched, it seems like an afterthought. As the flames mounted about his body, his chant rose higher and higher until he could be heard throughout the downtown part of town. Curry lost consciousness in ten minutes and died.

Jones was then roped and dragged over the hot coals and more wood was thrown on. In six minutes, he too was dead. Cornish received the same treatment. Still more fuel was added and the three bodies were roasted in a bonfire that was kept going for six hours.

The lynchings followed one of the most thrilling man hunts in the history of these parts. Farmers and business men of three counties joined together to comb every inch of the territory. Creek bottoms were beaten all day and acres of grassland were flattened. Finally the three men were captured and brought to Fairfield where a mob gathered and took them from the sheriff after storming the jail.
-From Brooklyn Citizen, May 6, 1922

Later that same day…

Sheriff Holds Two Whites in Crime that Three Blacks Burned For
Fairfield, Tex., May 6 – Cliff and Arnie Powell, two white men, were detained today for further questioning in connection with the murder of Eula Ausley, for which three negroes were burned at Kirvin this morning. Sheriff H.M. Mayo declared that tracks leading from the scene of the murder led to the home of the brothers.

“The shoes of the Powells fit the tracks,” was the terse comment of the sheriff.

One of the brothers was arrested yesterday and the other surrendered after the mob had taken the Negroes from the jail here. Said the sheriff, “The King and Powell families had some kind of fight some time ago, in which one of the Powells was badly cut. This is just another clue we are following up.”

Miss Ausley was granddaughter of John King, wealthiest rancher in these parts. Apart from their family feuding, the Kings and Powells have been involved in legal battles against one another, too.
-New York Call, May 7, 1922.

Two days later, the Madera Tribune reported of a fourth lynching victim and the threats of violence that followed:

Another Negro Found Lynched at Kirvin, Texas

Madera Tribune, May 8, 1922.
Madera Tribune, May 8, 1922.

Kirvin, Texas, May 8 – Another negro was found lynched today on the road near Kirvin where three negroes were burned Saturday.

Governor Teff today ordered two detachments of rangers to Fairfield to prevent a negro uprising which Sheriff Mayo reported was imminent.

Mayo reported the negroes had threatened to avenge the burning of the three blacks at Kirvin on Saturday.

One detachment is leaving Austin immediately and another will be sent from Fort Worth.
-Madera Tribune, May 8, 1922.

Nothing seems to have ever come of the “uprising.” Much more recently, there was a book published about the events. “Flames after Midnight” by Monte Akers delves into the murder and the lynchings. It might be something to look into.

The murder and lynchings still seem to have some effects on the town. For an interesting discussion, see this recent thread at Ancestry.com.

Shoe Thief Suspect Lynched (1914)

Augusta, Ga., May 7 – About 10 o’clock last night Charley Jones, a middle-aged negro, was taken from two officers near Grovetone, Ga., while they were carrying him to jail at the county seat, by a crowd of about 15 white men and lynched.

According to information received here, Jones was suspected of having stolen some shoes from a Grovetown merchant. Constable Ruef Huffman went to Jones’ house yesterday morning and searched it but failed to find the shoes. In the afternoon the negro showed up at the depot in the center of town in an intoxicated condition.

He is said to have cursed the constable and declared that he would not permit any white folks to search his house. His manner caused a number of people in the town to tell the constable to “shoot him.”

The negro bared his breast and is said to have invited any and every one to shoot, saying that he was not afraid. Several men seized him and in a scuffle the negro was beaten considerably about the head.

He was placed in the lockup and there protested against his wounds being dressed, saying that when he got out he intended to kill every while person connected with his being imprisoned.

He was started on the road to Appling for safekeeping in charge of two deputies last night, but a crowd of men took him away form them about a mile from town and this morning the body was found in the public road with a number of bullets through it.
-From Asheville Gazette-News, May 7, 1914.

The following two articles detail just how little it took to cause a lynching.

Train Porter Lynched After Insult to White Woman (1920)

Tampa, Fla., May 8 – Riddled with forty or fifty bullets, the body of Henry Scott, a negro porter, was found beside the Lakeland-Bartow road, about 8 miles from the former city, shortly before midnight. The man was porter on Atlantic Coast Line train No. 82 northbound, and was taken from his train when it passed Lakeland about 10:30pm, when a young white woman enroute to Bartow stated that he had insulted her.

She proceedd to Bartow and sent Chief Deputy Sheriff Clyde Olive back for the negro. The deputy later stated he was along with the handcuffed negro, driving to Bartow, when overtaken by three auto loads of armed men who demanded the black and ordered the officer to proceed on his way.

A card beside the negro’s body bore the legend: “This is what you get for insulting a white woman.”
-Atlanta Constitution, May 9, 1920.

The very next day, more information was revealed:

Woman’s Impatience Revealed as Cause of Porter’s Death

Lakeland, Fl., May 10 – The motive behind the lynching of Henry Scott, a Negro pullman porter who was killed by a mob near here two days ago, was revealed today in greater detail.

Scott was lynched because he had allegedly insulted a white woman, according to the woman’s own story. Scott denied having insulted her. His story was that the woman had asked him to arrange her berth while he was engaged in arranging another woman’s berth. He asked her to wait until he was finished what he was doing. She became highly indignant.

The woman sent a telegram to the next station stating that Scott had insulted her. When the train stopped, Scott was removed by a deputy sheriff. From there the story followed the usual lynching pattern. A mob “over-powered” the sheriff and killed the Negro. The coroner’s jury returned the usual verdict, “Death at the hands of parties unknown.”
-New York Negro World, May 29, 1920.

Nearly Fifty Other Lynchings This Week

What follows is a list of all known lynchings of black Americans between May 2 and May 8, 1879-1941.
It should be in the forefront of your mind that the “crimes” listed are only what the victims of the lynchings were accused of committing. They were allowed no trials, and thus they were not guilty in the eyes of the law. Certainly some may have done what they were accused of doing, but in a constitutional society that values law and order over mob rule, each and every lynching was a miscarriage of justice and a horrible wrong.

Year	Victim	  City State	Race	Sex	Form    Alleged Offense

May 2

1885	Conley Johnson	      Humphreys	TN	Black	Male	Shot			Trouble with white man
1891	Monroe Watters		  Lamar	AL	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted poisoning of a white man
1891	Mother of Wesley Lee	Lowndes	MS	Black	Female	Hanged			Attempted poisoning of a white man
1901	Felton Brigman		  Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Hanged			Criminal assault of a 6 year-old black girl
1901	Grant Johnson		Bossier	LA	Black	Male	Hanged			Gambler and assorted crimes including murder
1903	Ben Bryant		 Warren	MS	Black	Male	Hanged/strangulation	Murder of a white man, a storekeeper
1912	Ernest Allums	      Bienville	LA	Black	Male	Hanged			Wrote insulting letters to two white women/making obscene phone calls
1919	Denny Richards		 Warren	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of his wife and wounding of four white men

May 3

1879	Johnson Spencer	      Oktibbeha	MS	Black	Male	Hanged		Barn burning
1879	Nelvin Porter	      Oktibbeha	MS	Black	Male	Hanged		Barn burning
1896	Charles Jones		  Baker	FL	Black	Male	Shot		Unknown
1915	Jesse Hatch		 Clarke	AL	Black	Male	Hanged		Attacking an unmarried white woman
1936	John Rushin		 Thomas	GA	Black	Male	Shot		Murder of 24 year-old white farmer

May 4

1884	Charles Dickerson	  Boone	KY	Black	Male	Hanged			Burglary
1886	Wesley Williams		Kershaw	SC	Black	Male	Unreported		Attempted assault on an “aged” white “lady”
1894	Amos Hicks	      Claiborne	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Arson of a stable belonging to a white man
1900	Marshall Jones		 Coffee	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of white police officer
1902	John Simms	      Morehouse	LA	White	Male	Unreported		Complicity in murder of a white man; hiding a black man accused of killing a white man
1927	John Carter	        Pulaski	AR	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Attacked white woman and her daughter

May 5

1886	Dick Walker	    Mecklenburg	VA	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted criminal assault on a young white woman, the daughter of a farmer
1890	Willie Leaphart	      Lexington	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Rape of 16 year-old unmarried white girl
1892	G. H. Rose		Choctaw	AL	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted outrage upon a white woman
1893	Sam Gaillard	   Williamsburg	SC	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Attempted assault on a white woman
1900	John White		 Geneva	AL	Black	Male	Hanged			Criminal assault on a 12 year-old white girl
1911	Bruce White	 	Winston	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Poisoning well water of a white man, a planter and his employer
1911	Cliff Jones		Winston	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Poisoning well water of a white man, a planter and his employer
1912	Minter Moore	     Washington	MS	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Attempted assault on a white woman
1919	Unnamed Negro	 	 Holmes	MS	Black	Female	Unreported		Writing an improper note to a young white woman
1919	Unnamed Negro		 Holmes	MS	Black	Male	Unreported		Writing an improper note to a young white woman

May 6

1886	Robert Smith	    St. Bernard	LA	Black	Male	Hanged			Murder of a white man, a planter
1888	Dan Sales	         Wilkes	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Attempted rape of an unmarried white woman, a school teacher
1893	Israel Holloway	     Assumption	LA	Black	Male	Hanged			Rape of a 11 year-old white girl
1906	George Whitner	 East Feliciana	LA	Black	Male	Dragged behind horse	Insulted white woman
1907	Charles Harris	       McDuffie	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murderous assault on a white man, a prominent farmer
1907	Sam Fleming		  Desha	AR	Black	Male	Hanged			Fighting with a white man, a bartender
1912	George W. Edd		Noxubee	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Wounded a married white woman, wife of a prominent merchant and planter, and her son
1913	John Henry Moore       Columbia	GA	Black	Male	Hanged			Being disorderly around Martinez [Columbia Co.] and shooting at a white sheriff
1914	Charles Jones	       Columbia	GA	Black	Male	Shot			Threatening white police officers
1941	Robert Sapp		  Early	GA	Black	Male	Flogged and beaten	Stealing from his white employer

May 7

1881	Cherry Nichols	      Bienville	LA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Outrage and murder of a 8 year-old black girl
1886	Ben Chambers		Madison	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted criminal outrage on a 14 year-old white girl
1906	Samuel Sims		  Hinds	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Shooting at a white man, a constable, and killing his horse

May 8

1880	Joe Johnson		   Todd	KY	Black		Male	Hanged and shot		Outrage and murder of a married white woman
1883	Wat Cox		        Hopkins	KY	Black		Male	Hanged			Attempted outrage on a married white woman
1885	— Jordan		Colbert	AL	Black		Male	Unreported		Attempted criminal assault on an unmarried white girl, daughter of a prominent farmer
1887	Benjamin Hart	      Edgecombe	NC	Black		Male	Hanged			Attempted criminal assault on a 16 year-old white girl
1889	Tut Danford	      Abbeville	SC	Black		Male	Drown			Turned state’s evidence against robbers
1893	Abe Crane	       Ouachita	AR	Black		Male	Unreported		Murder and robbery of a prominent young white businessman
1893	Dick Jansen	       Ouachita	AR	Black		Male	Unreported		Murder and robbery of a prominent young white businessman
1893	James Stewart	       Ouachita	AR	Black		Male	Unreported		Murder and robbery of a prominent young white businessman
1898	Lewis Linden	         Iberia	LA	Black		Male	Hanged			Rape of white girls aged 14 and 12
1900	Unnamed Negro #1       Hernando	FL	Black		Male	Shot			Killing a white man
1900	Unnamed Negro #2       Hernando	FL	Black		Male	Shot			Killing a white man
1901	Henry Johnson		  Baker	FL	Black		Male	Riddled with bullets	Assaulted a white man
1902	Pald May		Simpson	MS	Black		Male	Shot			Indolence
1904	Frank Pipes		Rapides	LA	Black		Male	Hanged/strangulation	Shooting a white man and threatening the life of a white policeman
1908	Elmo Howard		  Giles	TN	Black-mulatto	Male	Hanged			Attempted criminal assault on a 16 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent farmer
1909	Unnamed Negro		  Duval	FL	Black		Male	Throat cut ear to ear	Rape of the wife of a well-known white farmer of Camden
1914	Sylvester Washington  St. James	LA	Black		Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of two white men and wounding two other white men
1920	Henry Scott		   Polk	FL	Black		Male	Riddled with bullets	Insulting young white woman
1939	Joe Rodgers		Madison	MS	Black		Male	Shot			Altercation with his white employer

For more information concerning the lynching data, please see our page here.

References   [ + ]

Eric
Eric has always had a love for history and the Civil War. During the 150th anniversary of the war, he wrote the Civil War Daily Gazette blog, which published daily for nearly five years. Wishing to continue the exploration, following the Charleston murders in 2015, and the activism around removing the Confederate Battle Flag, he decided to dig a little deeper into the causes and repercussions of the War.
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