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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 [ + ]
|1.||⇡||In 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.|
|2.||⇡||Some 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.|