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.
Lynching a Woman
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
1893 Unnamed Negro Decatur GA Black Male Hanged/riddled with bullets Attempted rape of white woman
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
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
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 [ + ]
|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.|