Lynched for Voting, Stealing a Bible – This Week in Historical Lynchings

This week, we’ll look at three separate lynchings incidences. The first two concern black citizens exercising their right to vote. The punishment of death was often dealt out by self-described “conservative” Democrats against “progressive” Republicans (the term “liberal” would not come into use until a few decades later).

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.

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Lynched for Voting Republican

November 30, 1879

Shortly after the capitulation of Reconstruction, the conservative Democrats, through use of intimidation and murder, wrested control of local governments from the progressive Republicans. Many of these progressives were black citizens, now exercising their right to vote.

Following an election in Madison Parish, Louisiana, whites rioted at least one black man (and possibly two others) were lynched.

Progressives, led by black voters, had formerly led the parish by a 3,000 person majority. This election, however, saw a complete conservative Democrat victory. Many ballot boxes across the parish had not a single black or Republican vote inside them. In other areas, where black people were emboldened enough to vote, conservative whites stole and destroyed the ballots. 2More about that here.

The Lynching of David Armstrong
New Orleans, December 12 – The Carroll Parish, a Conservative Democratic organ, says: David Armstrong, a colored man living with his family on Morancy Place, near Milliken’s Bend, Madison parish, was taken out of his house on Sunday night last preceding the election, by twenty-five or thirty men.

Over twenty shots were fired and heard by persons on the place. Pools of blood and a sheet covered with gore were found near the bank of the river the next morning, but no trace whatever of Armstrong, who is reported to be an industrious paying tenant on Morancy Place, making good crops every year.

Since writing the above, a report has been brought to town that the body of Armstrong was fished out of the river three days ago and interred. 3Pittsburgh Daily Post; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sat, Dec 13, 1879 – Page 1. Here.

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Lynched for Robbery

December 1, 1884

Five years later, similar action was taken against Mike Calvin, a black progressive Republican from Georgia. Though the lynch mob was unable to kill him, they managed to burn to death an old woman and two children.

House of a Colored Man Fired and Two Persons Cremated

Albany, Ga., Dec 13 – Two weeks ago, four white men, masked, went in the dead of night to the house of Mike Calvin, colored, and knocked at the door. When he called, they refused to answer. He slipped around to the front door from the rear of the house, and saw them with guns and pistols.

His wife, who was enceinte [pregnant], was frightened into a swoon. The men began to force the door open. Calvin in the meantime had succeeded in getting up planks in the floor and escaping, with his wife in his arms, to the swamps near by, where they took refuge, undergoing the most excruciating deprivations. The masked men began to fire in the building.

Hearing no noise, they set fire to the building, thinking Calvin and his wife were in it.

With the house were burned to death an aged negro woman and two small children who were inmates. The men escaped.

The cause assigned for the deed was because Calvin had in the late election voted the Republican ticket and told it to his friends.

The men were from the best families and were apprehended. The case was called, and on account of the illness of Solicitor General Waiters a mistrial resulted today in Calhoun county court.

The grand jury found a true bill for murder. The sentiment against them is great. It is feared if the trial is not hurried they will be lynched. 4The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer; Wheeling, West Virginia; Mon, Dec 15, 1884 – Page 1. Here.

If there was a trial, the results could not be found.

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The lynching of Leonard Woods.  "The manacled man was carried to the state line, hanged to a tree, his body riddled with bullets and to make sure he was dead, the maniacs placed him upon the platform from which the chief executives of the two states had spoken and set it on fire." More Here.
The lynching of Leonard Woods.
“The manacled man was carried to the state line, hanged to a tree, his body riddled with bullets and to make sure he was dead, the maniacs placed him upon the platform from which the chief executives of the two states had spoken and set it on fire.”
More Here.

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Mother and Son Lynched for Stealing a Bible

December 2, 1895

Our final piece is testament to the senseless brutality of racism against black citizens – here suspected of stealing a Bible.

The Murder of Isom and Hannah Kearse
The murder of the colored man Isom Kearse and his mother, Hannah, by a white mob in Colleton County, South Carolina, last Monday night was one of the most causeless, brutal, and cowardly lynchings which have ever taken place in the South.

Isom Kearse was charged with the offense of stealing a Bible and some pulpit furniture. The charge had no other basis than suspicion, but that was considered sufficient warrant by the white brutes for killing Isom by lashing him to death with buggy traces.

Then because Isom’s aged mother Hannah could not produce testimony to prove her son guilty she, too, was lashed to death with the same traces.

Not content with this savagery, the mob dragged Isom’s wife, who is only 17 years of age, with her 5-months’ babe, into the woods, and because she could not give any evidence that would convict Isom she, too, was most terribly beaten, though she may survive her injuries.

The inhuman brutes did not lash the baby, probably because it could not talk. Had it been a little older it also might have been lashed and killed for not knowing anything of the charge trumped up against its father. 5Chicago Tribune; Chicago, Illinois; Sat, Dec 7, 1895 – Page 12. Here.

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Flag announcing lynching, 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.

Nearly Seventy Lynchings This Week

What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between November 28 and December 4, 1877-1950. 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. 6For more information on all of this, please see our post here.

It must also be remembered that this list is incomplete. Not only were there unreported lynchings, but the databases I draw from are understandably inadequate.

Year	Victim	  City State	Race	Sex	Form    Alleged Offense

November 28

1881	— Craig				Leflore	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a white man
1881	— Jordan			Leflore	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a white man
1891	Arthur Ramsay	 Lauderdale	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Race prejudice—altercation with a white man
1895	Tony Sutton			  Dooly	GA	Black	Male	Shot							Murder of a white man
1903	John Fogle		 Dorchester	SC	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Ravish a young unmarried white woman
1912	Jim Hurd			Bossier	LA	Black	Male	Hanged - strangulation			Murderous assault on a white man, a deputy
1912	Mood Burks			Bossier	LA	Black	Male	Hanged - strangulation			Murderous assault on a white man, a deputy
1912	Silas Jimmerson		Bossier	LA	Black	Male	Hanged - strangulation			Murderous assault on a white man, a deputy
1915	Ellis Buckner	  Henderson	KY	Black	Male	Hanged							Detaining an unmarried white woman against her will
1916	Buck Thomas		Clarksville	TX	Black	Male	Hanged							Attacking white couple in their home
1919	Neville Foxworth	 Marion	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Attempted criminal assault on a 15 year-old white girl

November 29

1882	Counce O’Neal		Laurens	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Raped a young black girl ... later shown that the rape did not happen
1892	Commodore True	   Hiawatha	KS	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled  with bullets	Murder
1893	Newton Jones		Appling	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Murder of prominent white man, a farmer
1895	Joe Robertson		Lincoln	TN	Black	Male	Hanged								Attempted rape of a white woman
1895	Skace McGaha		Lincoln	TN	Black	Male	Hanged								Attempted rape of a white woman
1910	Mack Neal			 Sussex	VA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Killing a white woman and wounding another white woman, a while man, and two white boys
1919	Sam Mosley		   Columbia	FL	Black	Male	Hanged								Attempted assault on a white woman
1920	J. B. Harris		   Dade	FL	Black	Male	Hanged								Attempted assault on a white woman

November 30

1879	David Armstrong		Madison	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Being a Republican
1885	Henry Mason		   Campbell	VA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets		Murder of a white man
1898	Unnamed Negro		 Fulton	KY	Black	Male	Unreported							Murder and robbery of a white man
1898	Unnamed Negro  	 New Madrid	MO	Black	Male	Unknown								Murder of a white man
1903	Clinton Thomas		  Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Hanged								Murderous assault on a 40 year-old white man, a prominent planter
1903	Philip Davis		  Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Hanged								Murderous assault on a 40 year-old white man, a prominent planter
1903	Walter Carter		  Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Hanged								Murderous assault on a 40 year-old white man, a prominent planter
1907	Neal Sanders	  Covington	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Criminal assault on a married white woman, wife of a farmer
1912	Chesbley Williams	Telfair	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Shooting the wife of a prominent white planter, his employer, and assaulting the planter’s daughter
1919	Jack Ridicer	  Wilkinson	GA	Black	Male	Hanged								Shot young white man, the son of a well known white man
1921	Robert Murtore	  Ballinger	TX	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Attack on a 9 year old white girl
1927	Leonard Woods		   Wise	VA	Black	Male	Hanged								Murder of white mine foreman in Wise

December 1

		
1878	Victor Bryan  Pointe Coupee	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Killing a white man
1879	H. W. Peck			Madison	LA	Black	Male	Hanged								Being a Republican
1879	R. H. Brown			Madison	LA	Black	Male	Hanged								Being a Republican
1881	John Brodie		  Granville	NC	Black	Male	Hanged								Murder of a white man
1881	Shadrack Hester	  Granville	NC	Black	Male	Hanged								Murder of a white man, a jeweler
1884	Emma Mike			Calhoun	GA	Black	Female	Burned								Father voted Republican
1884	Lillie Mike			Calhoun	GA	Black	Female	Burned								Father voted Republican
1884	Unnamed Negro		Calhoun	GA	Black	Female	Burned								Living in the home of a black man who voted Republican
1886	Caesar Robinson	 Darlington	SC	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets		Attempted outrage of “respectable [unmarried] white girl”
1886	Buck Hunter			   Drew	AR	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with buckshot	Assault with intent to kill two white citizens
1893	Lucius Holt			   Pike	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets		Murder and robbery of young white man
1894	William Jackson		 Marion	FL	Black	Male	Hanged								Assaulted a black woman
1909	John Harvard		Pulaski	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets		Murderous assault of white business man

December 2

1878	— Moustand		   St. Mary	LA	Black	Male	Throat cut							Attempted outrage of a white woman, member of a sheriff’s family
1880	Daniel Smith		  Giles	TN	Black	Male	Hanged								Attempted to ravish a young white girl
1882	Wesley Andrews	  Morehouse	LA	Black	Male	Hanged								Attempted murder of a white man
1888	Van Canady		  Cleveland	NC	Mulatto	Male	Hanged								Murder of a white farmer and attack on his wife
1890	Thaddeus Fowlkes  Charlotte	VA	Black	Male	Hanged								Murder of a white man, a railroad brakeman
1890	Unnamed Negro		  Floyd	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets		Horse thief
1893	Robert Greenwood	  Cross	AR	Black	Male	Unreported							A “heinous offense”
1895	Hannah Kearse	   Colleton	SC	Black	Female	Beaten								Knowledge of a theft of white church property, a Bible
1895	Isom Kearse		   Colleton	SC	Black	Male	Beaten								Theft of white church property, a Bible
1913	Unnamed Negro		  Henry	AL	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets		Attempted assault on a white girl
1914	Elijah Durden		  Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Hanged								Murder of a white man, a postmaster and storekeeper, and burning his body and building
1914	Jobie Lewis			  Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Hanged								Murder of a white man, a postmaster and storekeeper, and burning his body and building
1917	Lation Scott		   Dyer	TN	Black	Male	Burned								Rape of a white woman

December 3

1887	Charles Taylor Tallahatchie	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with buckshot				Attempted murder of a white man
1887	Joseph Tribble Tallahatchie	MS	Black	Male	Unreported							Attempted murder of a white man
1887	Monroe Harris  Tallahatchie	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with buckshot				Attempted murder of a white man
1890	Henry Johnson		Pickens	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Rape of 20 year-old married white woman, wife of a farmer
1914	Willie Green	   Florence	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Hiding under a white man’s house; trying to steal chickens
1915	William Patrick	St. Francis	AR	Black	Male	Hanged								Murder of a white man, prominent white merchant 
1922	George Teague	  Covington	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Murder of a 39 year old, prominent white farmer

December 4

1903	Lewis Jackson  Hillsborough	FL	Black	Male	Hanged								Attempted criminal assault on a 3 year-old white girl
1907	Unnamed Negro	  Morehouse	LA	Black	Male	Hanged								Hit the town marshall with an axe
1921	Aaron Birdsong		 Oconee	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Entering prominent white farmer’s home and wounding deputy
1921	George Lowe			 Oconee	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Supplying ammunition to a black man accused of entering prominent white farmer’s home and wounding deputy
1921	West Hale			 Oconee	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets				Supplying ammunition to a black man accused of entering prominent white farmer’s home and wounding deputy
1931	Matthew Williams  Salisbury	MD	Black	Male	Beaten, Stabbed, Dragged, Hanged, Mutilated	Murder
1936	J. B. Grant			  Jones	MS	Black	Male	Hanged								Insulting a white woman

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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