This week, we’ll take a closer look at three separate lynchings, including that of a railroad brakeman whose alibi had been vouched for, another lynching in Texas where the mob numbered upwards of 5,000, and finally a fifteen year old boy who was tortured and burned to death in Georgia.
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.
Brakeman Lynched (1898)
Joe Mitchell, a well known colored brakeman on the Illinois Central, was lynched at Rives, Tenn., last night by a mob. Mitchell lived on North Twelfth street, in this city, and leaves a wife.
It was for the alleged death of a young, white tramp, who was run over by a train near Dyersburg, Tenn., and had both legs cut off, dying a short time after the amputation of the members. It is said that the lynching was a cold-blooded murder, as Mitchell had nothing to do with throwing the tramp off the train, which the tramp, in an antemortem statement, claimed he did. The conductor substantiates the negro, and the train men say Mitchell was not where he could have thrown the man off.
He was arrested and was being taken to Union City, the county seat, when a mob took charge of him at Rives, and quickly strung him up. The news soon reached this city, and the man’s wife was notified of his death.
The name of the tramp was Henry Gardner, of Dyersburg. He had climbed aboard the train to ride home and was on top of the car when shoved off, or he fell off, whichever it was. The horrible accident occurred near the depot, and when picked up his right leg was cut off below the knee and the other above the knee. He soon died, but when found was conscious and told the manner of his death, and claimed that Mitchell pushed him off the train. A telegram was sent to Newbern to intercept the head brakeman, Mitchell, and he was caught there.
He was en route to Union City in charge of officers to be jailed and tried, when a small mob appeared at the depot at Rives, where the officers and prisoner were seated, and demanded custody of him to be dealt with as he should be for his crime. The officers declined to give him up at first, but the mob threatened to fire the depot and then riddled the man with bullets as he escaped. It was then that they wrested him from the officers and started outside with him. A rope was ready, and without giving him time to pray, they swung him up to a tree near the depot, and he was still hanging there at daylight.
The mob is said to have been composed largely of Dyersburg men or men from Dyer county. Little noise was made during the whole proceeding. The time of lynching was about 11:30 last night.
Mitchell’s remains arrived in the city this afternoon at 2 o’clock, and will be buried here tomorrow. He had been with the railroad company for a number of years.
-Paducah Daily Sun, May 23, 1898.
Negro Tortured to Death by Mob of 5,000 (1902)
Lansing, Tex., May 22 – Dudley Morgan, a negro accused of assailing Mrs. McKay, wife of Section Foreman McKay, was burned to death at an iron stake here today. A crowd of 4,000 men, most of whom were armed, snatched him from the officers on the arrival of the train.
Morgan was taken to a large field on the edge of town. An iron stake was driven into the ground and to this he was bound until he could only move his head. Heaps of inflammable material was then piled about him and he was given a few moments for prayer.
It was 12:12 when all arrangements were completed. The crowd by this time numbered at least 5,000. The husband of the woman Morgan was accused of abusing applied the match and the pyre was soon ablaze. Then began the torture of the negro. Burning pieces of pine were thrust into his eyes. Then burning timbers were held to his neck, and after his clothes were burned off, to other parts of his body. He was tortured in a horrible manner.
The crowd clamored continuously for a slow death. The negro, writhing and groaning at the stake, begged piteously to be shot. Mrs. McKay was brought to the field in a carriage with four other women, and an unsuccessful effort was made to get her near enough to see the mob’s victim.
The negro’s head finally dropped, and in thirty minutes only the trunk of the body remained. As the fire died down, relic hunters started their search for souvenirs. Parts of the skull and body were carried away.
The men who captured Morgan were then held above the heads of the mob while their pictures were taken.
The last words of the doomed man other than the incoherent muttering made in prayer were: “Tell my wife good-bye.”
-Chicago Record-Herald, May 23, 1902.
Torture, Burn Negro of 15 (1922)
Davisboro, Ga., May 18 – Charles Atkins, a negro, fifteen, one of four taken into custody today in connection with the killing of Mrs. Elizabeth Kitchens, twenty, a rural mail carrier, was burned at the stake tonight.
The lynching occurred at the scene of the murder and followed an alleged confession from the prisoner. He was tortured over a slow fire for fifteen minutes and then, shrieking with pain, was questioned concerning his accomplices.
Atkins was said to have confessed his own guilt but to have exonerated his brother.
Members of the mob of 200 then raised the body again, fastened it to a pine tree with trace chains and relighted the fire. More than 200 shots were fired into the charred body.
-New York American, May 19, 1922.
Additionally, information on the May 17, 1892 lynching of James Taylor from Chestertown, Maryland can be found here.
Nearly Eighty Other Lynchings This Week
What follows is a list of all known lynchings of black Americans between May 16 and May 22, 1877-1932.
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.
1892 Berry Roden Talladega AL Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Battered and attempted criminal assault on a married white woman 1892 Jim Roden Talladega AL Black Male Hanged/RwB Battered and attempted criminal assault on a married white woman 1892 Will Carter Talladega AL Black Male Hanged/RwB Battered and attempted criminal assault on a married white woman 1893 Will Neal Calhoun MS Black Male Hanged Criminal assault on a 6 year-old black girl
1892 Bob Addison Habersham GA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a marshal/night policeman 1892 Gus Robinson Habersham GA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a marshal 1892 Jim Redmond Habersham GA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a marshal 1895 John Brooks Lafayette FL Black Male Burned Outrage and murder of a young white woman, daughter of a prominent farmer 1895 Samuel Echols Lafayette FL Black Male Burned Outrage and murder of a young white woman, daughter of a prominent farmer 1895 Sim Crowley Lafayette FL Black Male Burned Outrage and murder of a young white woman, daughter of a prominent farmer 1896 Unnamed Negro Bossier LA Black Male Hanged Insulted a respectable white woman 1900 Son of William Fisher Leflore MS Black Male Shot Fatally wounded a white man, a prominent planter 1900 William Fisher Leflore MS Black Male Shot Fatally wounded a white man, a prominent planter 1906 Frank Jordan Citrus FL Black Male Hanged Murder and robbery of a white peddler 1918 Eugene Rice Brooks GA Black Male Hanged Complicity in murder of a white planter and attacking his wife 1918 William Head Brooks GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Complicity in murder of a white planter and attacking his wife 1918 William Thompson Brooks GA Black Male Hanged Complicity in murder of a white planter and attacking his wife
1887 Will Hood Meriwether GA Black Male Hanged Attempted rape of 13-14 year-old white girl 1889 Unnamed Negro Caldwell LA Black Male Hanged Burglary 1892 James Taylor Chestertown MD Black Male Hanged/Strangle Rape 1893 Bill Dennis Coffee GA Black Male Unreported Unreported 1895 Jerido Shrivers Coffee AL Black Male Drown Kidnapping and rape of three white girls 1904 Dick Whitehead Northampton NC Black Male Hanged Criminally assaulted 7 year-old black child 1914 James Woodson Polk FL Black Male Shot Entered a young white woman’s room at a hotel 1918 Chime Riley Brooks GA Black Male Hanged Unknown 1918 Hayes Turner Brooks GA Black Male Hanged Complicity in murder of a white planter and attacking his wife 1922 Charles Atkins Washington GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Robbery and murder of a 20 year-old married white woman mail carrier
1889 A. M. Neely St. Francis AR Black Male Riddled with bullets Incendiary speeches and murderous assault on white sheriff 1889 James Mitchell Attala MS Black Male Hanged and shot Criminal assault on a white child 1892 Charles Everett Coffee TN Black Male Riddled with bullets Entered the room of a young white “lady” 1896 James Dandy St. Bernard LA Black Male Hanged Attempted outrage of a white woman 1906 Charlie McAllister Berrien GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of white marshal 1910 Charles Wilson Baker GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Attempted rape of 8 year-old white girl 1918 Baby of Mary Turner Brooks GA Black Unknown Head crushed Being child of Mary Turner 1918 Mary Turner Brooks GA Black Female Hanged/RwB Made “unwise remarks...about the execution of her husband...”, 1918 Thomas Devert Unicoi TN Black Male Shot Rape and murder of 15 year-old white girl 1922 Hullen Owens Miller AR Black Male Riddled with bullets Fatally wounded a white policeman
1877 Levi Pile Ballard KY Black Male Hanged/RwB Attempted assault and murder of a white woman 1889 Joseph Thornton Ballard KY Black Male Hanged/Strangle Rape of young white girl 1890 Grant Anderson Lowndes MS Black Male Hanged Attempted rape of a 13 year-old white girl 1894 William Brooks St. Francis AR Black Male Shot Asked to wed daughter of a white farmer, his employer 1895 Robert Dunbar Jefferson MS Black Male Burned Ravishing a black girl 1898 Elbert Harris Anderson SC Black Male Whipped Burning a cotton gin house/railroad depot 1899 Thomas Linton Fayette GA Black Male Shot Unknown 1903 Amos Randall Polk FL White Male Hanged/RwB Murder of a white man, advocate of prohibition 1903 Daniel Kennedy Polk FL Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of a white man, advocate of prohibition 1903 Henry Golden Polk FL Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of a white man, advocate of prohibition 1904 Unnamed Negro Polk FL Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of a white man, advocate of prohibition 1917 Lawrence Dempsey Fulton KY Black Male Hanged Assault with a razor upon a white railroad watchman 1919 William Moore Stone MS Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, manager of a lumber company 1927 Daniel Anderson Noxubee MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a young white man, a farmer
1891 Tennis Hampton Claiborne LA Black Male Burned Murder a white man and hog stealing 1893 Ephraim Merchel Coffee GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of a white man, a prominent businessman 1893 Unnamed Negro Coffee GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of a white man, a prominent businessman 1894 I. T. Burgis Clay FL Black Male Hanged Conspiracy to revolt and outrage white women 1894 J. H. Webster St. Francis AR White Male Shot Arresting whitecappers 1894 Unnamed Negro Miller GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Attempted rape and attempted murder of 16 year-old white girl 1907 Dosia Padgett Tattnall GA Black Female Shot Being in the home of Sim Padgett 1907 Sim P. Padgett Tattnall GA Black Male Shot Aiding criminal assault on a white widow and killing of a white man and wounding others 1907 Sula Padgett Tattnall GA Black Female RwB Aiding criminal assault on a white widow and killing of a white man and wounding others 1907 Wilford Padgett Tattnall GA Black Male RwB Aiding criminal assault on a white widow and killing of a white man and wounding others 1911 Benjamin Smith Emanuel GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Fatally wounded white deputy marshal, son of a prominent family 1911 Henry Jones Columbia FL Black Male RIddled with bullets Murder of a wealthy white lumberman and two other white men 1911 Jerry Gusto Columbia FL Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a wealthy white lumberman and two other white men 1911 Joseph Moore Taliaferro GA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a wealthy farmer who was his employer 1911 Mark Norris Jr. Columbia FL Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a wealthy white lumberman and two other white men 1911 Sam Phillips Columbia FL Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a wealthy white lumberman and two other white men 1911 Tom Bilups Columbia FL Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a wealthy white lumberman and two other white men 1911 Zeke Chandler Columbia FL Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a wealthy white lumberman and two other white men 1918 John Womack Covington AL Black Male Riddled with bullets Attempted criminal assault on a 15 year-old white girl, daughter of a farmer 1919 Frank Livingston Union AR Black Male Burned Murder of his white employer and wife and burned down their home
1898 Joseph Mitchell Obion TN Black Male Hanged Causing the death of 18 year-old white boy 1901 John Williamson Clay MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Living with a white woman 1901 Milton Calvert Clay MS Black Male Hanged Attempted criminal assault on a 10 year-old white girl 1906 George Younger Lowndes MS Black Male Unreported Killing a well-known white man, member of a posse trying to arrest him 1906 Thomas Jackson Caddo LA Black Male Riddled with bullets Robbing a white boy of $1.00 1917 Eli Persons Shelby TN Black Male Burned Murder of 16 year-old white girl by decapitation 1926 James Jefferson Yazoo MS Black Male Hanged Entering a married white woman’s home and frightening her 1932 Will Harvey Adams MS Black Male Shot Race prejudice; revenge for being employed—taking jobs from unemployed whites
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.|