This Disgraceful Evil – A Weekly Look at Historical Lynchings

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.

Today we take a closer look at four lynchings that made headlines during this week in history, and forty more besides. 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.

riddled Flag announcing lynchings, flown from the window of the NAACP headquarters on 69 Fifth Ave., New York City. 1936.
Flag announcing lynching, flown from the window of the NAACP headquarters on 69 Fifth Ave., New York City. 1936.

Lynching a Woman

(1881)
Mob Law in South Carolina, Disapproved, However, by the People.
Martin’s Depot, SC., April 8, 1881 – Information has just reached here of the lynching of Ann Cowan, a colored woman, at Martin’s depot, Laurens county, in this state. The victim of this horrible affair attempted to set fire to the premises of a painter named James S. Blalock, in the neighborhood. She succeeded in burning a barn, with its contents.

She was arrested by a constable upon this charge. The officer attempted to carry his prisoner to the guard house at Martin’s depot, where she was to be committed for trial. The woman was taken from the officer by a mob and hanged to a convenient tree. She confessed that she had set fire to the building of Mr. Blalook for some imaginary offense that he had given her.

The lynching took place about twenty-five miles from the spot where the negro men suffered death in the same manner about the middle of February for an infamous assault upon a young lady whom they afterward beat to death with a club and concealed her body in the bushes. The punishment of these two fiends was approved by the community. The manner in which the rugged justice was meted out to this poor woman, however, meets with very general condemnation in the community in which it occurred.
-Indianapolis News, April 16, 1881

Young Negro is Lynched

(1902)
Lynchburg, Va., April 6. — James Carter, a young negro, who shot and seriously wounded Don Thomas near New Glasgow, in Amherst County, Thursday night, was taken from jail at Amherst Courthouse last night just before midnight and lynched.

A party of men estimated at 200 and supposed to have come from the neighborhood of Cliffords, seven miles away, where Thomas lives, rode into Amherst late last night. All were masked or had their faces blackened. When Jailer John Jones left the jail for his home several members of the lynching party made him surrender the keys.

The men secured Carter, took him a half-mile north of the village, hanged him to a tree and fired thirty-five bullets into his body. The shooting of Thomas by Carter was the result of an accusation said to have been made by the former that Carter had set an outhouse on fire. He had been sent to jail to await the action of the Grand Jury.
-San Francisco Call, April 7, 1902

Officers Surprised by Masked Men; Negro Hanged, Body Riddled with Bullets

(1909)
Escambia, Fl., April 5. – Overpowering Desk Sergeant M. J. Murphy and binding Turnkey Chas. Simpson with a rope, an organized and masked mob of about fifty men took Dave Alexander, colored, confessed murderer of Police Office R. J. Carter, from the city jail at 4 o’clock yesterday morning and hanged him to the cross-arm of an electric light pole in the plaza, just north of the Chipley monument, completing the work of lynching him by firing a fusillade of shots at him, fifteen of them entering the body.

The mob conducted the lynching in a quiet manner, their arrival at the city jail being a complete surprise to the two officers on duty there. When the lynchers reached the jail the first officer they attacked was Desk Sergeant Murphy. They forced him to the floor face down and hold him in that position. Sergeant Murphy offered resistance but his only reward was rough treatment at the hands of the lynchers. His clothing was torn and he received a severe shakeup and several slight bruises as a result of his efforts to free himself from the masked men. When he was securely bound some of the lynchers carried him face down from the first to the second floor of the jail.

As they passed out of the office some of the mob got possession of the key to the cell in which Alexander was locked. When they arrived at the cell the key was handed to Turnkey Simpson and at the point of half a dozen revolvers. He was commanded to and did open the cell door. After getting possession of the negro, the lynchers hurriedly left the jail being joined by the remainder of the mob who remained down stairs.

When the mob left the jail they proceeded at once to the Plaza where the negro was hanged and his body riddled with bullets. The lynching occurred at an hour when the streets were deserted, the approach of the lynchers to the jail not being witnessed by any of the policemen on duty on Palafox street.

At the first opportunity one of the officers on duty at the jail telephoned Chief of Police Frank Sanders who was at home, telling him what occurred. He arrived at the jail a few minutes after the negro had been lynched. The work of the mob was done in such a quiet and systematic manner that none of the participants have been recognized and up to a late hours last night no arrests in connection with the lynching has been made. Chief of Police Sanders said yesterday that every effort will he made to apprehend those who participated in the mob.
-The Pensacola Journal, April 6, 1909

Lynched After Acquittal

(1909)
Shreveport, La., April 9.- Thomas Miles, a negro aged 209 years, was lynched on the outskirts of the city early to-day. He was released from the police court yesterday on the charge of sending insulting notes to young white women, but positive proof was lacking. His body was found at daylight. The negro had been hanged and his body riddled with bullets. No arrests have been made.
-The Colfax Chronicle, April 13, 1912

List of This Week’s Lynchings

With our focus upon the repercussions of slavery and the Civil War, this is our list of the lynchings of black Americans and their allies which took place between March 28 and April 3. It is compiled from several databases. For more information on that, please see our overview page on lynchings.

The information is laid out as follows (and I apologize for the layout):

Year	Victim	  City State	Race	Sex	Form    Alleged Offense

April 4

1884	George Lee	           Pike	MS	Black	Male	Hanged	Outraging a 4 year-old white girl
1921	Sandy Thompson	         Rankin	MS	Black	Male	Hanged	Killed a white man, a well-to-do farmer, a planter

April 5

1883	Alex Williams    	Warren	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Outraging a black girl
1887	Bailey Dowdle	          York	SC	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of 14 year-old white boy
1887	Dan Roberts	          York	SC	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of young white boy
1887	Giles Good	          York	SC	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of young white boy
1887	Mose Lipscomb	          York	SC	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of young white boy
1887	Prindley Thompson	  York	SC	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of young white boy
1893	Louis Bush	       Rapides	LA	Black	Male	Hanged	                        Burglarizing a white man’s store
1902	James Carter	       Amherst	VA	Black	Male	Hanged/riddled with bullets	Wounded a white man
1908	John Winston	        Copiah	MS	Black	Male	Hanged and shot			Killing a 12 year-old white boy, son of a planter
1909	David Alexander	      Escambia 	FL	Black	Male	Hanged/riddled with bullets	Murder of a white policeman
1910	Frank Pride	        Lonoke	AR	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets		Murder of his wife
1910	Laura Mitchell	        Lonoke	AR	Black	Female	Riddled with bullets		Murder of her husband
1913	J.C. Collins            Mondak	MT	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder
1916	Joseph Black	        Greene	NC	Black	Male	Unreported			Making threats against white people

April 6

1877	Henry Parker	La Fourche	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Criminal assault on a 13 year-old white girl
1892	Issac Brandon	   Charles City	VA	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted assault on a young white woman
1892	Unnamed Negro #1 of 4	  Grant	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder and robbery of a 55 year-old white man, a peddler
1892	Unnamed Negro #2 of 4	  Grant	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder and robbery of a 55 year-old white man, a peddler
1892	Unnamed Negro #3 of 4	  Grant	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder and robbery of a 55 year-old white man, a peddler
1892	Unnamed Negro #4 of 4	  Grant	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder and robbery of a 55 year-old white man, a peddler
1894	Dan Ahern	         Greene	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/riddled with bullets	Criminal assault  on a married white woman
1899	Forest Jamison	        Noxubee	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a white man, a farmer
1899	Mose Anderson	        Noxubee	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a white man, a farmer
1901	May Hearn	    Mississippi	AR	White	Male	Hanged				Murder of a white man
1903	John Turner	        Bradley	AR	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted rape of a married white woman

April 7

1893	Unnamed Negro	        Decatur	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/riddled with bullets	Attempted rape of white woman

April 8

1911	Charles Hale	       Gwinnett	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/riddled with bullets	Assaulted prominent married white woman
1911	Charles Pickett	         Schley	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/riddled with bullets	Murder of a white man, a prominent citizen
1911	Dawson Jordan	         Schley	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/riddled with bullets	Murder of a white man, a prominent citizen
1911	Murray Burton	         Schley	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/riddled with bullets	Murder of a white man, a prominent citizen

April 9

1881	Eliza Cowan	        Laurens	SC	Black	Female	Hanged				Burning the barn of a prominent white farmer
1884	Henry Kilburn	      Breathitt	KY	White	Male	Hanged				Murder of a white man
1884	William Strong	      Breathitt	KY	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a white man
1902	Tom Blackard	          Obion	TN	White	Male	Hanged				Murder of a white man, a deputy marshal
1909	Alfred Iverson	       Randolph	GA	Black	Male	Shot				Unknown
1909	Benjamin/Ben Brame	  Trigg	KY	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted rape of white girl, daughter of a prominent farmer
1912	Thomas Miles	          Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Hanged/riddled with bullets	Writing insulting letters to a white woman
1921	Rachel Moore	         Rankin	MS	Black	Female	Hanged				Being the mother-in-law of a black man accused of killing a white man

April 10

1883	Samuel Lewis	         Etowah	AL	Black	Male	Hanged			Murder of black man
1892	William West	          Dooly	GA	Black	Male	Shot			Murder of a negro
1894	Alf Bran	         Gordon	GA	Black	Male	Beaten to death		Unknown

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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