Of Mobs, Testimony and Stumbling into a White Girl – This Week in Historical Lynchings

This week, we’ll have a look at four separate lynchings by white mobs.

  • In Louisiana, a black man is shot in his home for testifying against a white mob.
  • A white deputy sheriff is shot to death as he attempted to hold off a white mob intent upon lynching a black prisoner.
  • A black Kentuckian was hanged by a mob for “assaulting” a white girl – he merely stumbled into her.
  • In Georgia, a black man is killed for testifying against a white supremacist organization.
    • 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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      The Bulldozers at Work

      September 30, 1885

      A Negro Slain by Masked Men in Bienville Parish

      Arcadia, La., Oct. 10 – About thirty-two miles south of this place, near the line of Winn Parish, on the 30th of September, four masked unknown men entered the house of Sampson Harris, colored, pretending to be looking for another man, until gaining admittance into the house. On entering the house it is reported that one of the men caught the colored man, saying, “You are the man we want,” and shot him (Sampson Harris) twice, from which he died.

      Report says the cause of the killing of Harris was that he had threatened to report some parties for whipping some colored men in the neighborhood.

      This killing and whipping of some colored men near the same neighborhood has caused great indignation on the part of many white people in the locality. The trouble has been reported to the Governor, and he has instructed Judge Drew to cause the parties suspicioned to be arrested.

      Warrants were issued here this week, and H.R. Ferguson, Deputy Sheriff, in company of three other men, arrested the supposed party of four and brought them in for trial today. Trial is set to take place Monday at this place before Judge Drew.

      The accused were put in the lockup here until this evening, and for safety were taken to Minden on this evening’s train.

      The white citizens seem to take great interest in bringing the guilty parties to justice, and are using every precaution to that end. It appears from reports that about ten men are concerned in the whipping and killing altogether. The matter will be thoroughly investigated.

      The citizens in the vicinity had a meeting last Saturday to take action, and had another meeting this week, composed of about forty citizens of the neighborhood, they being determined to arrest the trouble in some way. In the meantime four of the supposed parties were arrested. The names of the four arrested are: W.E. Pratt, B.F. Ratcliff, A. Stringer and J.W. Lucky. 2The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Sun, Oct 11, 1885 – Page 4. Here.

      Southern Outrages

      Ex-Rebels who Beat and Kill “Niggers” Released from Custody on Peace Warrants
      New Orleans, La., Oct 14 – […] The accused had the most distinguished counsel in that section of the state, and today one was discharged and the three others released on $500 peace bond ot answer to the charge of assault and battery.

      This was on account of the inability of the prosecution to find any one willing to testify against them. Prominent citizens of that section deprecate these outrages, but they are afraid to take any active steps to prevent them and keep silent.

      No reason is assigned for this outbreak of bulldozing, as there is no political campaign now in progress, but it has been said that the negroes favored the prohibition movement, which is attracting attention in some parts of the state. 3The Des Moines Register; Des Moines, Iowa; Sun, Oct 18, 1885 – Page 2. Here.

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      Lake Charles Jail Assaulted By A Mob

      September 27, 1911

      Deputy Sheriff Killed in Protecting a Black Fiend from the Wrath of Citizens

      Lake Charles, La., Sept. 27 – Rumors of a plan to lynch Horace Scott, in jail here accused of criminally assaulting Miss Oswald, aged seventy-three years, a sister of Mrs. Joe Goodman, were current all day.

      About 9 o’clock tonight an unmasked crowd gathered at the courthouse. One of the crowd called for Sheriff Perkins and demanded the keys to the jail. In the meantime Judge Miller met the crowd and with well-chosen words told them that the punishment of criminals must be left to the courts in Calcasieu parish.

      He reasoned individually with the Goodman boys, nephews of the victim of the negro. Judge Miller urged the crowd to disperse and promised to take the case against the negro up in court tomorrow morning.

      On this promise the crowd broke up, and it was thought there would be no further attempt by the mob.

      At 11 o’clock, however, a fresh outbreak was made by the mob, when the angry men advanced toward the jail with an iron battering ram fifteen feet long and three inches in diameter.

      D.S.A. Harmon and Paul Sloane, deputies inside the jail, warned the mob to come no nearer, and shot over the heads of the crowd. Someone in the mob then fired at the deputies. Paul Sloane was shot and is believed to be fatally wounded.

      The sheriff and deputies outside the jail dispersed the crowd at the point of their pistols, and members of the mob then called for the arrest of the man who killed Paul Sloane.

      Willie Daniels, alias Pate, who was known to have had a double-barreled shotgun, had disappeared. The gun was left standing at the corner of the jail yard with both barrels exploded.

      Paul Sloane died at 12:30 o’clock.

      Willie Daniel and others of the mob who were known to be armed have been arrested. 4The Times-Democrat; New Orleans, Louisiana; Fri, Sep 28, 1900 – Page 2. Here.

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      Lynching of Negro in Kentucky

      September 26, 1913

      Judge Says Keys were Taken form Him After He Was Gagged By Mob

      Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 26 – Joseph Richardson, a Nashville negro, who attempted to attack Ree Goff, a white girl, 11 years old, while on her way to school, was taken from the Grayson County Jail by a band of armed men early today and hanged from a tree in the courthouse yard.

      The lynching of Joseph Richardson, September 26, 1913.
      The lynching of Joseph Richardson, September 26, 1913.

      Robert Jackson, Jailer, today claims that at 4 o’clock this morning he was called to his front door by someone, who claimed to be a night watchman, and said he wished to put a prisoner in jail.

      Jackson opened the door and was instantly seized. he says, by three men, who demanded the keys to the jail. He refused and was gagged and tied, he says. The mob at once searched the jail, Jackson says, and found the keys to the outer door and quickly went to the prisoner’s cell.

      The negro fought desperately, according to two white prisoners, but soon was overpowered.

      The men who composed the mob wore masked and numbered about 25. They worked so quietly that no one in the city knew of the lynching until this morning, when the negro’s body was seen.

      Sheriff Henry Ashley is trying to find who were members of the lynching party. They are believed to have come from the country, as horses and vehicles were heard passing out of the city about the time of the hanging.

      There was no thought of lynching until the little girl told her story of the attempted attack so vividly and with so much feeling that the citizens of her community where the attempted attack took place were worked up to a high pitch of excitement.

      The negro stated that he had been in jail at Nashville, Tenn., for a similar offense. At the coroner’s inquest this morning a verdict was returned to the effect that the negro had come to his death “at the hands of unidentified persons.”

      When Governor James B. McCreary was asked tonight what action he planned to take following the lynching of Joseph Richardson, a negro, at Leitchfield, Ky., early today, he said the lynching was news to him.

      “I shall not take any action until I receive formal notice that a lynching has taken place,” said Governor McCreary. “I will have nothing to say until, through the official channels, I have received word that such an act has taken place at Leitchfield.” 5The Cincinnati Enquirer; Cincinnati, Ohio; Sat, Sep 27, 1913 – Page 1. Here.

      According to the website Without Sanctuary: ‘The photographer who took this picture peddled the cards door to door. A descendant of the original purchaser expressed the remorse the townspeople felt upon recognizing the victim as the town drunk, who had “merely stumbled into the child, and not even torn her dress.”‘ 6Without Sanctuary, The lynching of Joseph Richardson. Here.

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      Masked Men Kill Negro Who Testified Against Whites in Attack Case

      September 28, 1930

      Thomasville, Ga., Sept. 30 – Lacy Mitchell, a negro, who testified recently in court against two white men charged with attacking a negro woman, is dead – the victim of masked men who invaded his home Saturday night and shot him.

      Members of his family said the assailants, who appeared to be white men, entered the house and started firing without explaining their reason. Mitchell lingered until yesterday.

      County authorities are making an investigation and have arrested several men for questioning. 7The Monroe News-Star; Monroe, Louisiana; Tue, Sep 30, 1930 – Page 15. Here.

      Given Life Sentence

      Thomasville, Ga., Oct 30 – O.E. Allen, charged with participating in the murder of Lacey Mitchell, negro and star witness in the case of two white men convicted of criminally assaulting a negro woman, was convicted by a Thomas County jury late Wednesday and sentenced to life imprisonment. 8The Anniston Star; Anniston, Alabama; Thu, Oct 30, 1930 – Page 1. Here.

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      The lynching of William Brown, September 28, 1919.
      The lynching of William Brown, September 28, 1919.

      The Lynching of Will Brown, Omaha’s 1919 Race Riot

      September 28, 1919
      In some cases, such as this, it is much better to allow actual historians tell the narrative of the lynching.

      The lynching of Will Brown, which involved an attempted lynching, as well as a multitude of horrific acts on the part of the white mob, was left mostly untold in the period newspapers of the time. The act went on to spur a full on race riot which led to the deaths of several in the black community, and nearly cost the mayor his life at the hands of the same mob.

      This article was authored by Orville D. Menard, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of
      Nebraska at Omaha. It appeared in the Nebraska History in 2010. This is available as a PDF here, and is well worth the read.

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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.

      Seventy-five Other Lynchings This Week

      What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between September 26 and October 2, 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. 9For 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

      September 26

      1878	James Russell	 Rutherford	TN	Black	Male	Hanged and shot			Attempted assault on an 60 year-old white woman, a widow
      1881	Ben Robertson		 Iberia	LA	Black	Male	Shot or hanged			Stealing chickens
      1890	Jim Tate			   Bibb	AL	Black	Male	Unreported				Murder of a white man
      1891	Charles Mack		Emanuel	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Assaulted respectable white woman
      1891	Lee Bailey			Volusia	FL	Black	Male	Hanged					Rape of a married white woman
      1897	Raymond Bushrod		Hancock	KY	Black	Male	Hanged					Rape of a 14 year-old white girl
      1898	John Williams		Johnson	TN	Black	Male	Hanged					Rape of a married white woman and stabbing a white boy
      1899	William Otis		  Perry	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Indecent proposals to a white girl
      1903	Will Williams		Decatur	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Assaulted 8 year-old white girl
      1909	Charles Anderson	 Taylor	FL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Murder of white chief of police
      1913	Joseph Richardson	Grayson	KY	Black	Male	Unknown					Criminal assault on an 11 year-old white girl
      1914	Nathan Brown		 Wilcox	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of “prominently connected” white plantation overseer
      1926	Samuel Nelson 	 Palm Beach	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Criminal assault on a white woman
      1933	John White		 St. Landry	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted assault on a white woman
      

      September 27

      1887	Henry Johnson		 Dallas	AR	Black	Male	Hanged					Outraging a white girl, daughter of a “leading farmer”
      1889	John Sleet		  Jefferson	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of a white deputy sheriff
      1891	Unnamed Negro		Laurens	GA	Black	Male	Hanged					Assaulting a prominent white man
      1892	Benny Walkers	  Concordia	LA	Black	Male	Hanged					Entered a married white woman’s bedroom with “evil designs”
      1893	Calvin Stewart		  Aiken	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of an old white man
      1897	William Oliver	  Jefferson	LA	Black	Male	Shot					Violated a ferry law and resisting arrest
      1900	Paul Sloane		  Calcasieu	LA	White	Male	Shot					Defending a prisoner
      1911	Charles Malpass Sr.	  Desha	AR	White	Male	Hanged					Father of two black men who were accused of killing a white officer and another white man
      1915	Manson Shuler	 Orangeburg	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted robbery
      1916	Moxie Shuler		Decatur	GA	Black	Male	Hanged					Attempted rape of 14 year-old daughter of a well-known white family
      1935	Lewis Harris		  Dooly	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Aided his son from being arrested; threatened a white sheriff
      

      September 28

      1891	Grant White		 Washington	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of a white man, a bartender
      1891	Louise Stevenson Washington	MS	Black	Female	Hanged					Murder of a white man, a bartender
      1901	Thomas Walker 	  Hallville	TX	Black	Male	Hanged					Disagreements over crop mortgages
      1901	Unknown Negro	  Hallville	TX	Black	Male	Hanged					Disagreements over crop mortgages
      1902	Thomas Clark		 Alcorn	MS	Black	Male	Burned					Murder of a married white woman
      1913	Walter Jones	  Jefferson	MS	Mulatto	Male	Hanged					Multiple murders
      1913	William Jones	  Jefferson	MS	Mulatto	Male	Shot and hanged			Multiple murders
      1916	Manuel Carter		  Lewis	TN	Black	Male	Shot					Murder
      1916	Wiley Tedwell		  Lewis	TN	Black	Male	Shot					Murder
      1919	Will Brown			  Omaha	NE	Black	Male	Beaten, Hanged, Shot, Burned	Assault of white woman
      1922	James Johnson		Johnson	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Rape of a white woman
      1927	Thomas Williams		 Shelby	TN	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attacked 50 year-old white woman
      1930	Lacey Mitchell		 Thomas	GA	Black	Male	Shot					Witness against whites charged with assaulting a black woman
      
      

      September 29

      1880	Unnamed Negro		 Orange	FL	Black	Male	Probably hanged			Murder of a white man, his boss
      1885	Harriet Finch		Chatham	NC	Black	Female	Hanged					Murder of a 75 year-old white man, his 80 year-old sister, and a 16 year-old black boy
      1885	Jerry Finch			Chatham	NC	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of a 75 year-old white man, his 80 year-old sister, and a 16 year-old black boy
      1885	John Pattishill		Chatham	NC	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of a 75 year-old white man, his 80 year-old sister, and a 16 year-old black boy
      1885	Lee Tyson			Chatham	NC	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of a 75 year-old white man, his 80 year-old sister, and a 16 year-old black boy
      1888	Sam Cornwell		Chester	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Quarreled with white man
      1889	John Duncan			 Murray	GA	Black	Male	Shot					Living with white woman
      1891	John Brown		  Talladega	AL	Black	Male	Hanged					Testifying against two boys accused of barn-burning
      1893	Henry Coleman Jr.	Bossier	LA	Black	Male	Hanged					Attempted assassination of a white man
      1916	John Foreman		 Nowata	OK	Black	Male	Hanged					Killed Deputy Sheriff
      1916	Powell				 Nowata	OK	Black	Male	Hanged					Killed Deputy Sheriff
      1919	Miles Phifer	 Montgomery	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Criminal assault on a white woman
      1919	Robert Croskey	 Montgomery	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Criminal assault on a white woman
      
      

      September 30

      1884	William Smith	  	  Adams	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Raping and injuring a black woman
      1885	Sampson Harris	  Bienville	LA	Black	Male	Shot					Threatening to give evidence against whitecappers
      1891	Ben Patterson			Lee	AR	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Rioting
      1919	John Temple		 Montgomery	AL	Black	Male	Shot					Murder of a 41 year-old white man, a policeman
      1923	Unnamed Negro		 Holmes	MS	Black	Female	Shot					Race hatred
      
      

      October 1

      1892	Joe Barco			 Camden	NC	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Outraged and murdered a married white woman
      1893	George McFadden	WilliamsburgSC	Black	Male	Hanged					Criminal assault on young unmarried white girl, 16 year-old
      1896	Lewis Hamilton		Bossier	LA	Black	Male	Hanged					Arson of a cotton warehouse
      1898	Walt Johnson		Madison	FL	Black	Male	Shot					Unknown
      1901	George Muckleroy  Hallville	TX	Black	Male	Whipped to death		Disagreements over crop mortgages
      1901	Unknown Negro	  Hallville	TX	Black	Male	Hanged					Disagreements over crop mortgages
      1901	Unknown Negro	  Hallville	TX	Black	Male	Hanged					Disagreements over crop mortgages
      1902	Walter Sullivan		 Ashley	AR	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Shooting a white man for whipping Sullivan’s brother
      1903	Walker Davis	   Marshall	TX	Black	Male	Hanged	Murder
      1910	Unnamed Negro		Calhoun	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Criminal assault of an old black woman
      1921	Ray Newsome			Madison	FL	Black	Male	Shot					Trying to hug a white girl and being offensive to another white girl
      1930	John William Clark	 Bartow	GA	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of white chief of police
      
      

      October 2

      1879	Charles Brown	  Wilkinson	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Attempted criminal assault on a married white woman
      1890	Ernest Humphreys   Caldwell	KY	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of a black man
      1897	Wash Ferren		   Ouachita	LA	Black	Male	Hanged					Criminal assault on two white girls
      1898	Wright Smith	  Annapolis	MD	Black	Male	Shot					Attempted rape
      1900	Wallace Townsend	 Elmore	AL	Black	Male	Burned					Attempted assault on a married white woman
      1901	Clarence Garnett	 Shelby	KY	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of a white man, a printer
      1901	Jimbo Fields		 Shelby	KY	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of a white man, a printer
      1912	Frank Wigfall		Rawlins	WY	Black	Male	Hanged					Rape
      
      
      

      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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