In today’s post, we’ll take closer looks at several lynchings that occurred this week in history. Using period newspapers, we’ll first cover yet another case of mistaken identity discovered far too late. Then, a short piece about a man lynched for stealing mules. Following that, we’ll hear from an eyewitness to a horrific mutilation, and finally another short article about a man lynching for passing an “indecent” note to a white girl.
We’ll also hear from not one but two United States Senators from South Carolina as they defend the unconstitutional practice of lynching.
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.
Rape Victim Witnesses Lynching of “Attacker” (1903)
Eastman, Ga., July 14 – Ed Claus, a negro, was lynched near here tonight, while his victim, Miss Susie Johnson, was looking on. Claus was captured after being chased through seven counties by fifty farmers.
Claus attacked Miss Johnson last Thursday as she was returning from a small school which she teaches. The negro kept her prisoner for several hours, and she was found next morning by a searching party. A posse was organized and the negro was trailed from here almost to Savannah before he was overtaken.
He was brought here tonight by his captors and taken to the home of Miss Johnson. The young woman identified him, and when asked what she wanted done with him, she said:
“He ought to be killed.”
The negro was then tied to a tree and the members of the mob fired at him until he was literally cut to pieces.
Not quite two weeks later, the same newspaper (the Chicago Record-Herald) ran a piece explaining that it was a case of mistaken identity:
Savannah, Ga., July 26 – Several days ago a negro, supposed to be Ed Claus, was lynched near Eastman, Ga., for assaulting Miss Susie Johnson, a young school teacher. The negro protested he was not Claus and asked for time to prove his statement. But the mob was merciless.
It now transpires that the negro was not Claus and had never seen Miss Johnson. Claus, who assaulted the girl, has been located near Darien, Ga., and officer passed through here tonight to secure him. It is believed Claus will be taken from the officers and lynched.
Negro Hanged as Mule Thief (1914)
Lake Cormorant, Miss., July 14 – James Bailey, a negro, was hanged today by a mob of about twenty masked men. He had been accused of the theft of three mules.
Indescribable Tortures Were Inflicted on Williams (1921)
From Moultrie, Georgia, scene of the burning of the Negro Williams, the [Washington] Eagle has obtained the following facts by an eyewitness. It is clearly shown that sworn officers of the law were leaders in mob violence and burning, acting with impunity.
Says the Eagle‘s Correspondent:
“There are many things about the Williams burning more disgraceful than have been published. A sick woman and her child, who had nothing to do with the matter, were beaten into insensibility and left to die because of hoodlumism of the mob. Colored churches were burned, all colored farmer’s fences were torn down and wealthy colored farmers chased form their homes.
“Williams was brought to Moultrie on Friday night by sheriffs from fifty counties. Saturday court was called. Not a single colored person was allowed nearer than a block of the courthouse. The trial took half hour. Then Williams, surrounded by fifty sheriffs, armed with machine guns, started out of the courthouse door toward jail.
“Immediately a cracker by the name of Ken Murphy gave the Confederate yell: ‘Whoo-whoo- let’s get the nigger.’ Simultaneously five hundred poor pecks rushed on the armed sheriffs, who made no resistance whatever. They tore the Negro’s clothing off before he was placed in a waiting automobile. This was done in broad daylight. The Negro was unsexed and made to eat a portion of his anatomy which had been cut away. Another portion was sent by parcel post to Governor Dorsey, whom the people of this section hate bitterly.
“The Negro was taken to a grove, where each one of more than five hundred people, in Ku Klux ceremonial, had placed a pine knot around a stump, making a pyramid to the height of ten feet. The Negro was chained to the stump and asked if he had anything to say. Castrated and in indescribable torture, the Negro asked for a cigarette, lit it and blew the smoke in the face of his tormentors.
“The pyre was lit and a hundred men and women, old and young, grandmothers among them, joined hands and danced around while the Negro burned. A big dance was held in a barn nearby that evening in celebration of the burning, many people coming by automobile from nearby cities to the gala event.”
-Washington Eagle. 2Since it seems likely that a touch of hyperbole might have been used, more information about the lynching can be found here.
Lynched for ‘Indecent’ Note (1934)
Bolton, Miss., July 16 – Accused of writing an “indecent and insulting” letter to a young Hinds County white girl, James Sanders, 25-year-old negro, was riddled with bullets late today by a mob of armed citizens.
The Lynching of Rubin Stacy (1935)
Rubin Stacy was lynched in Florida on July 19, 1935. Though one of the later lynchings, his murder was celebrated by the townspeople who posed for pictures with his body. Most of the available photos feature young girls and women.
The NAACP used one of the photos in material in support of the federal anti-lynching bill. This bill ultimately failed (with the help of one of the senators mentioned below).
Once in awhile a high-profile official was found to be in favor of lynching. It’s rare, however, for such support to come from a United States Senator and former state governor. Coleman Livingston Blease served four years as South Carolina’s governor (1911-1915), and was then elected to the US Senate in 1924, a position he held for six years. During those years, he tried to push through a Constitutional amendment that would not only bar mixed raced couples, but punish them. This article ran on July 12, 1930 in the New York Telegram.
A Southern Statesman (1930)
The question whether lynching is justifiable is figuring in the United States Senatorial campaign in South Carolina, unbelievable as it may seem.
Senator Coleman L. Blease, up for re-election, discussed the subject in a campaign address.
“Whenever the Constitution comes between me and the virtue of white women in South Carolina, I say to hell with the Constitution, Blease is quoted as having said recently at the scene of a recent lynching where he was seeking the local vote.
When he was Governor, he added pridefully, he did not call out the militia to protect Negroes against mobs, and asked that when a suspect was caught he not be notified until the next morning.
It would be difficult to equal such a statement for sheer barbarity and demagogism.
It is a deliberate invitation to the people of South Carolina by an acknowledged leader, who boasts that he has held more political offices than any other man in the history of the State, to supersede normal legal processes with lynch law and mob violence.
And there has been plenty of that in the South in recent weeks.
We cannot believe that such savagery reflects the views of the people of South Carolina.
Obviously men like Blease have no place in the Senate or in any other public office. It will be interesting to observe whether the decent people of South Carolina are willing to bear the stigma of having him again represent them.
Blease lost in the primaries to James F. Byrnes – 50.9% to 49.1%. Byrnes then ran in the general election unopposed. Incidentally, Byrnes was a Roman Catholic and a progressive, supporting FDR’s New Deal in the Senate. However, it seems his progressiveness did not come into play concerning lynching.
Byrnes spoke in favor of lynching on the floor of the Senate when anti-lynching measures were proposed. He believed that lynching was necessary in order to hold the “negro in check.”
Nearly Ninety Other Lynchings This Week
What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between July 11 and July 17, 1877-1935. 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. 3For more information on all of this, please see our post here.
Year Victim City State Race Sex Form Alleged Offense
1881 Henry Smith Prairie AR Black Male Hanged Outrage and murder of a 14 year-old white orphan girl 1888 William Henry Smith Wythe VA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Criminal assault on a married white woman, “respectable lady” 1889 Felix Keys Lafayette LA Black Male Unreported Ax murder of his wife 1889 Prince Luster Tishomingo MS Black Male Hanged Seduction of an insane white girl 1892 Elmer Edwards McCracken KY White Male Shot Opposing a mob 1894 Unnamed Negro #1 DeSoto MS Black Male Hanged Unknown 1894 Unnamed Negro #2 DeSoto MS Black Male Hanged Unknown 1896 James Porter Webster LA Black Male Riddled with bullets Suspicion of murder of a white farmer 1896 Monch Dudley Webster LA Black Male Riddled with bullets Suspicion of murder of a white farmer 1898 John Henry James Albemarle VA Black Male Hanged/RwB Criminal assault of an unmarried white woman 1899 George Jones St. Charles LA Black Male Drown Horse theft 1904 Kitt Bookard Berkeley SC Black Male Stabbed Quarreled with a young white man, cursed him, and threatened to paddle him 1906 Edward Pearson Emanuel GA Black Male Hanged Found under a white girl’s bed 1908 Unnamed Negro Jones GA Black Male Shot Attacking a white man with a knife 1926 James Clark Brevard FL Black Male Hanged Unknown
1882 Wm. Ritter Henderson KY Black Male Hanged Rape and murder of a 12 year old black/mulatto girl 1884 Willis Hardin Troup GA Black Male Hanged Rape of a white woman 1885 Harris Trustall Lafayette MS Black Male Hanged Attacking two white girls, the eldest being 19 years-old 1892 Henry Purvine McCracken KY Black Male Shot Unreported 1893 Henry Fleming Lowndes MS Black Male Hanged/RwB Stabbing to death a white man 1893 Robert Larkin Marion FL Black Male Hanged Rape of a unmarried 18 year-old white woman of “high social standing” 1902 Will Jackson Panola MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Killing a white boy 1914 Rosa Richardson Orangeburg SC Black Female Hanged/RwB Murder of 13 year-old white girl 1915 Will Lozier Abbeville SC Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of a young white man, son of a well-known farmer
1877 George Jackson Ashley AR Black Male Burned Outraged and murdered a young white girl 1884 Ned Mack Oktibbeha MS Black Male Hanged Poisoning a 12 year-old and 14 year-old white boys 1884 Newton Carpenter Oktibbeha MS Black Male Hanged Poisoning a 12 year-old and 14 year-old white boys 1888 Jim Torney St. Clair AL Black Male Unreported Eloped with 16 year-old white girl, daughter of a well-to-do farmer 1891 Samuel Gillespie DeSoto MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Aided larcenist 1893 Allen Butler Lawrenceville IL Black Male Hanged “Producing a criminal abortion” 1893 Meredith Lewis Tangipahoa LA Black Male Hanged Murder of his first wife 1898 Sidney Johnson Tuscaloosa AL Black Male Hanged/RwB Criminal assault on a widowed white woman and an attempted criminal assault on a 16 year-old white girl 1904 Unnamed Negro Concordia LA Black Male Hanged Assaulting a white man, a saw mill foreman 1911 Morris Daniels Colquitt GA Black Male Shot Attempted criminal assault on an aged white woman
1879 John Breckinridge Nicholas KY Mulatto Male Hanged Outraged an unmarried white woman 1879 Lucian Weaver Jefferson TN Black Male Riddled with bullets Rape of a married white woman 1884 Richard May Daviess KY Black Male Hanged Attempted rape of a young white woman, daughter of a prominent farmer 1887 Jim Riser Winn LA Black Male Shot Unreported 1888 Frank Stone St. Clair AL Black Male Attempted outrage on a married white woman, wife of a railroad section foreman 1889 Swan Burnes Tishomingo MS Black Male Hanged Killing a young white man 1892 Julien Mosely Desha AR Black Male Hanged Rape of his 17 year-old stepdaughter 1894 Charles Marie Harrison MS Black Male Hanged Attempted outrage on an unmarried 16 year-old white girl 1894 William Bell Dickson TN Black Male Riddled with bullets Barn burning 1895 Jack Ware Calhoun AR Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man 1895 Jim Ware Calhoun AR Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man 1898 Alexander Johnson Drew AR Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a rich planter and merchant 1898 James Redd Drew AR Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a rich planter and merchant 1903 Unnamed Negro Dodge GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Assaulted young unmarried white woman 1908 Hugh Jones Hardeman TN Black Male Hanged Attempted rape of an unmarried 17 year-old white girl 1913 Sam Townes Bolivar MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Killing his wife and a black man, and fatally shooting a member of a posse, a white man 1914 James Bailey DeSoto MS Black Male Hanged Stealing three mules 1915 James Jackson Bleckley GA Black Male Hanged Murder of three white men, including a white marshal 1915 Peter Fambrough Bleckley GA Black Male Unreported Complicity in murder of a white marshal 1915 Peter Jackson Bleckley GA Black Male Shot Complicity in murder of a white marshal 1922 Jake Davis Miller GA Black Male Hanged and shot Fathering a child with a white woman
1881 — Spence Caddo LA Black Male Hanged Entering the bedroom of two white women 1882 David Cook Kershaw SC Black Male Unreported Attempted rape of a white woman 1886 Jake Braswell Bulloch GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Rape and mutilation of 6 year-old white girl 1888 John Humphreys Buncombe NC Mulatto Male Hanged Criminal assault on 13 year-old white girl 1889 Jim Tillman Grenada MS Black Male Unreported Reporting persons for violating gaming laws 1893 John Cotton Lincoln AR Black Male Hanged/RwB Attempted criminal assault on a married white woman 1895 Ira Johnson Greenville SC Black Male Hanged/RwB Killing of a young white man 1897 Anthony Williams Lawrence TN Black Male Riddled with bullets Rape and murder of a 15 year-old white girl 1898 John S. Durrett Tuscaloosa AL Black Male Riddled with bullets Plotting to avenge the lynching of a black man 1901 Alexander Herman Lawrence AL Black Male Hanged/RwB Murdered a black woman and cremated her body 1901 Lewis Thomas Richland LA Black Male Hanged Assault on a white man, a merchant, and member of a “Black Mafia Society”; stealing a bottle of pop 1915 Thomas Collins Avoyelles LA Black Male Hanged Assaulting a white man, a marshal 1919 Robert Truett Humphreys MS Black Male Hanged Insulted a white woman; made indecent proposals to a white woman 1933 Unnamed Negro Lowndes MS Black Male Hanged Improper proposals to a white girl, daughter of a farmer; insulted a white woman 1935 Bert Moore Lowndes MS Black Male Hanged Attempted criminal assault on a white woman, wife of a farmer 1935 Dooley Morton Lowndes MS Black Male Hanged Attempted criminal assault on a white woman, wife of a farmer 1935 Joe Spinner Johnson Hale AL Black Male Unreported Leader of the Sharecroppers Union
1881 Silas Lee Lincoln LA Black Male Riddled with bullets Attempted rape; discovered naked under two white girl’s bed 1884 Joe Robertson Greene AL Black Male Hanged Attempted rape of a young, unmarried white woman 1891 Will P. Walker Decatur TN Black Male Hanged/RwB Outraged a young white woman 1892 Manuel Monday Grenada MS Black Male Hanged Rape and murder of an 8 year-old black girl 1893 Unnamed Negro Shelby AL Black Male Unreported Murder of two white women 1894 Marion Howard Allen KY Black Male Hanged Criminal assault on an under 10 year-old white girl 1895 Robert Haggard Clark KY Mulatto Male Hanged Attempting to criminally assault a young unmarried white woman 1902 Unnamed Negro Escambia FL Black Male Hanged/RwB Unknown 1903 Dennis Head Aiken SC Black Male Shot Refusing to give information on an escaped murderer 1908 Albert Godlin Catahoula LA Black Male Hanged Inciting arson of a white man’s cotton gin 1908 Miller Gaines Catahoula LA Black Male Hanged Arson of a white man’s cotton gin 1908 Sam Gaines Catahoula LA Black Male Hanged Arson of a white man’s cotton gin 1917 Poe Hibbler Pickens AL Black Male Hanged Entering the home of a white farmer; attempted criminal assault on a white girl, a farmer’s daughter 1934 James Sanders Hinds MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Writing an indecent and insulting letter to a white girl
1877 Simon Jenkins Amite MS Black Male Shot Unreported 1896 Dan Dicks Aiken SC Black Male Hanged Attempted outrage on married white woman 1897 — Edmonson Lauderdale AL Black Male Beaten with rocks and clubs; hanged Concealed a black man accused of murder and rape 1902 Jim Gaston Attala MS Black Male Shot Incendiarism 1902 Monroe Hallum Attala MS Black Male Shot Incendiarism 1902 William Ody Tunica MS Black Male Burned Criminal assault on an unmarried white woman, daughter of a planter 1903 John Adams Bradford FL Black Male Hanged Rape of a respected black woman
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.|
|2.||⇡||Since it seems likely that a touch of hyperbole might have been used, more information about the lynching can be found here.|
|3.||⇡||For more information on all of this, please see our post here.|