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 lynchings 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 that didn’t – where just a name and a location could be found. 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.

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.

Lynch Mob May Have Erred

(1902)
Savannah, Ga., Mar. 30 – It is possible that in the search for Richard Young, the negro wanted for the murder of Dower Fountain in the southern part of this county, a negro now unknown has been caught by a posse and burned in error.

A bright bonfire was seen in the swamp in the direction a posse went Friday night and the members of the posse returned stating that they were satisfied with the night’s work. It now develops, however, that their victim may not have been Richard Young, for whom the officers of the law are still searching.

The remains of the burned negro were brought before the mother of Richard Young who says that they resemble her son in no particular.
-Chicago Record-Herald, March 31, 1902

Mob Victim Pleads Innocence; Prays Culprit Will Be Found

(1902)
Rome, Ga., April 1 – Walter Allen, a negro, charged with assaulting Miss Blossom Adamson, a 15-year-old girl, in this city yesterday afternoon, was taken from the jail to-night by 4,000 persons, who battered down the prison doors and hanged him to an electric light pole in the principal portion of the city. A volley was then fired afterward, and fully a thousand bullets entered the negro’s body.

The sheriff tried to save Allen from the mob and refused to deliver the keys, but the crowd forced the jail door with sledge hammers. Allen was allowed to make a statement, in which he declared that he was innocent and prayed that the guilty party would be found.
-Chicago Record-Herald, April 1, 1902

Colored Woman is Hanged

(1914)
Muskogee, Okla., Mar. 31 – Marie Scott, a negro woman, was taken from the Wagoner County jail early today and hanged to a telephone pole.

A mob of at least a dozen armed men overpowered the jailer, a one-armed man, threw a rope over the screaming woman’s head, dragged her out of her cell and strung her up a block from the jail.

Marie Scott was charged with driving a knife into the heart of Lemuel Peace, a youthful white man who, in company with other young white men, had gone to the negro quarter of Wagoner last Saturday night.
-Seattle Times, March 31, 1914

Bumps Into Girl; Is Lynched

(1916)
Cedar Bluff, Miss., Mar. 31 – Jeff Brown was lynched by a mob here late Saturday afternoon. Brown was walking down the street near the car tracks and saw a moving fright [train] going in the direction in which he wanted to go. He started to run to board the moving train. On the sidewalk was the daughter of a white farmer. Brown accidentally brushed against her and she screamed. A gang quickly formed and ran after him, jerking him off the moving train. He was beaten into insensibility and then hung to a tree. The sheriff has made no attempt to find out who the members of the mob were. Picture cards of the body are being sold on the streets at five cents a piece.
-Birmingham Voice of the People, April 1, 1916

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

March 28

1891	El Hudson	       Franklin	AL	Black	Male	Hanged	        Arson of a town
1891	Jeff Denzmore	       Franklin	AL	Black	Male	Hanged	        Arson of a town
1906	Corrolle Cotton	   West Carroll	LA	Black	Male	Hanged, Shot	Attempted criminal assault of young unmarried white woman
1917	Joe Nowling	       Mitchell	GA	Black	Male	Shot	        Possibly for testifying against a white man
1935	T. A. Allen	         DeSoto	MS	Black	Male	Shot	        Trying to organize sharecroppers

March 29

1885	George Rouse	          Dooly	GA	Black	Male	Hanged	Rape and murder of a white woman
1886	Fred Villerosa	         Warren	MS	Italian	Male	Hanged	        Rape of a white woman
1886	Tobe Williams	       Crockett	TN	Black	Male	Shot	        Murder of a prominent white man
1886	Weakley Ridley	       Crockett	TN	Black	Male	Shot	        Murder of a prominent white man
1888	Theodore Calloway	Lowndes	AL	Black	Male	Hanged, Shot	Murder of a white man
1890	Frank Griffin	        Chilton	AL	Black	Male	Hanged, Shot	Rape of two white girls, ages 9 and 4
1894	Oliver Jackson	     Montgomery	AL	Black	Male	Shot	        Murder of a prominent white planter
1910	Charles Carroll	       Edmonson	KY	White	Male	Shot	        Unknown
1912	Frank Whisonant	       Cherokee	SC	Black	Male	Hanged	        Forced a white man to drink a pint of whiskey and then “forced him to an unmentionable action”
1912	Joe Brinson	       Cherokee	SC	Black	Male	Hanged	        Forced a white man to drink a pint of whiskey and then “forced him to an unmentionable action”
1914	Allen Turner	           Winn	LA	Black	Male	Shot	        Wounded a white man, a prominent planter
1920	Grant Smith	        Fleming	KY	Black	Male	Hanged	        Rape [twice] of the teenage daughter of his former employer
1931	Elijah Johnson	         Warren	MS	Black	Male	Shot	        Attempted attack on a white woman

March 30

1897	— Haines	        Coahoma	MS	Black	Male	Hanged	               Robbery and murder of one young white man, and murderous assault and robbery on another white man
1897	Unnamed Negro	        Coahoma	MS	Black	Male	Hanged	               Robbery and murder of one young white man, and murderous assault and robbery on another white man
1898	Unnamed Negro	        Berrien	GA	Black	Male	Hanged, Shot	       Assaulted 10-13 year-old white girl and tried to cut her throat
1902	George Franklin	       ClaiborneLA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets   Murderous assault on a white man, a relative of the Governor of Louisiana (who later died)

March 31

1891	Zachariah Graham	 Mobile	AL	Black	Male	Hanged	              Attempted rape of a white child

April 1

1884	Erwin McCullough	Gaston	NC	Black	Male	Hanged	        Murder of his white employer, a prominent young man
1884	Frank Elliott	           York	SC	Black	Male	Hanged	        Assault on a 5 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent citizen
1902	Walter Allen	          Floyd	GA	Black	Male	Hanged, Shot	Attempted criminal assault of a prominent 16 year-old white girl
1911	— Cheatham	        Decatur	GA	Black	Male	Shot	        Unreported
1920	Joe Steward	        Laurens	SC	Black	Male	Hanged	        Knife fight with young white men
1933	Reuben Micou	        Winston	MS	Black	Male	Shot	        Slapping a white boy

April 2

1880	Ben Johnson	          Clark	KY	Black	Male	Hanged	        Assault on a “respectable young [white] lady”
1891	Martin Mayberry	          Maury	TN	Black	Male	Hanged	        Rape of a white woman
1893	Charles Morgan	       Tazewell	VA	Black	Male	Hanged, Shot	Murder of a black man
1895	William Rawles	        Alachua	FL	Black	Male	Hanged, Shot	Murder of a white man, a prominent merchant
1898	William Bell	     Tangipahoa	LA	Black	Male	Hanged, Shot	Suspicion of having connections to a murderous gang/group
1911	Abberdine Johnson	Bullock	AL	Black	Male	Hanged, Shot	Assaulted a married white woman
1912	Abe Coleman	      Oktibbeha	MS	Black	Male	Shot      	Frightening a married white woman and throwing an ax at a white man

April 3

1877	Alfred Turner	     Oglethorpe	GA	Black	Male	Shot	        Thought to have been connected to a black conspiracy
1883	Albert Williams	          Union	AR	Black	Male	Hanged	        Ravishing the 8 year-old daughter of a white judge
1889	Martin Rollins	        Russell	VA	Black	Male	Hanged, Shot	Murder of a white man
1892	Unnamed Negro	         DeKalb	GA	Black	Male	Unreported	Criminal assault on a white girl, daughter of the Postmaster
1896	Harvey Mabry	            Lee	MS	Black	Male	Hanged	        Attempting to rape a white woman
1900	Allan Brooks	        Chatham	GA	Black	Male	Hanged, Shot	Raped a white woman
1908	George Tutt	           Todd	KY	Black	Male	Unreported	Carrying a revolver
1924	Boots Wright	     Meriwether	GA	Black	Male	Shot	        Murder of a white chief of police

The title for these weekly posts – This Disgraceful Evil – comes from a speech delivered by President Woodrow Wilson in 1918. Wilson appealed to “the governors of all the states, the law officers of every community and, above all, the men and women of every community in the United States, all who revere America and wish to keep her name without stain or reproach, to cooperate, not passively merely, but actively and watchfully, to make an end of this disgraceful evil. It cannot live where the community does not countenance it.”

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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