This week, we’ll take a look at another triple lynching, as well as the murder of a judge that began the killings. Through period newspapers, we’ll see not only how murder and a possible black uprising was dealt with in the press, but also how lynchings were handled. By looking at the language used by the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 1893, we can see plainly how even the innocents who were lynched were vilified. It would take the paper nearly a week to denounce the lynching. Over that time, it would print rumor as fact, and practically schedule lynchings to come.
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.
Murder and Revenge Lynchings in Louisiana (1893)
On September 15, 1893, Judge Victor Estopinal, presiding over Jefferson Parish in Louisiana, was gunned down in his courtroom. The assassin, pegged immediately as Roselius Julian, was shot once in defense, but fled the scene.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Julian’s appearance as: “the color of cinnamon bark.” Continuing, it was reported that “The negro bore an unsavory reputation in the vicinity, and, in fact throughout the parish of Jefferson. During the last campaign, on account of some obnoxious acts of his in endeavoring to intimidate negro voters, a band of men were about to run him out of the parish, if not, in fact, to use more drastic means to put a stop to his reprehensible tactics.” 2The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Sat, Sep 16, 1893 – Page 1. Here and here.
Likely Julian was trying to convince his fellows in the black community to vote progressive Republican. Jefferson Parish, solidly conservative Democrat, obviously saw him as obnoxious. According to the same paper, Judge Estopinal “took an active interest in politics. Being fearless and intrepid, he figured prominently in wrestling the parish from Republican rule.” 3Ibid.
Julian and Judge Estopinal lived within 100 feet of each other, the former working on the plantation of the latter. According to the paper, Julian’s wife claimed that Julian had beat her. He was arrested and sent before Judge Estopinal, which was when the murder took place. 4Ibid.
Within an hour, another Judge rounded up a possee to hunt down Julian, who had, by that time, returned to his home, grabbed his gun, and shot Judge Estopinal’s son, wounding him.
“The posse scattered in different directions, and will make a thorough search of the swamps. His [Julian’s] mother and brothers’ place, at Camp Parapet, was searched, but he was not found there. The supposition is that he followed the LAbarre road to a small canal that runs to the lake, adn that he may have got a flatboat there to head for the lake.”
The paper also printed the rumor that Julian’s brothers, Volsin Basile and Paul Julian, though they admitted “this was denied by others” who saw them at their mother’s place. A few black residents were arrested, but none turned out to be Roselius Julian.
The next day, readers of the Times-Picayune learned not of the captured of Roselius Julian, but of the lynching of three of his relatives. This is the story that ran:
Lynched as a Warning
Judge Victor Estopinal was laid to rest yesterday morning. Roselius Julian is still at large, but but posses are surrounding the murderer and hope for his capture. Three of the negro’s brothers were hung last night, and the people for miles around are up and armed and determined that justice shall be done and the murder avenged.
[Here, the paper goes into detail about the murder and search, mostly repeating the above information. The paper, this column of which is now in a mostly-unreadable state, went on to talk about the rumors of a lynching. Eight members of Julian’s family had been arrested, and there were rumors that they would soon be lynched “if they did not divulge the whereabouts of the murderer.” The Judge who called together the posse vowed to stop any such activity.]
Those confined in the jailhouse on Judge Estopinal’s place were the murderer’s mother, two sisters, three brothers and two cousins. Two of the brothers had been arrested by Officer Koerber and a citizen who refused to give his name to the reporter as they were coming out of the swamp.
The other brother and two cousins had been arrested earlier in the day by Corporal Seelhorst at the Black bridge. The mother and two sisters were brought in from their home on the ridge, and it was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon before all the parties thus arrested were incarcerated in the jail at Estopinal’s.
The news of these arrests and the failure and refusal of these parties to furnish any information about their missing relative is what occasioned almost as much excitement as did the deed itself the evening previous. The aroused populace who assumed a threatening attitude and held whispered conversation about lynching, was general in favor of taking no harsh action against the females, but as to the males they appeared determined to string them up or make them talk.
It was in the wise that a reporter heard that an attempt would be made to break the jail between 9 and 10 o’clock. Accordinly before nightfall he took up a position in a lonely spot on the grounds, behind a tree, where he could get a full view of the jailhouse. He remained thus, secreted in this station, for what seemed to him an interminable period.
The guards patrolled the place, but did not come near his vantage ground. Finally, about 11 o’clock, a body consisting of about twenty-five men, some armed with rifles and shotguns, came up to the jail and lit a lantern. They unlocked the door and then held a conference among themselves as to what they should do. Some were in favor of hanging the whole five while others raised objections, and insisted that only two of the brothers, the short one and the tall one, “Valsin” and “Bazile,” should be taken out and strung up.
This was finally agreed to, and several of the men went into the jail, and, coming out shortly afterwards, brought with them the two doomed negroes. They were hurried across to Simon’s pasture, 100 yards distant, and there asked to take their last chance at saving their lives by making a confession. The negroes made no reply. They were then told to kneel down and pray. One did so. The other remained standing. But both prayed fervently. The taller negro ws then hoisted up. He remained hanging fully five minutes before the second one was hoisted.
The shorter negro, who was the second hung, stood gazing at the horrible death of his brother, without flinching. The mob remained standing at the place for about half an hour, when some one suggested that they go back and hang the three others.
“We took those two fellows that you saw over there in Simon’s place, and strung them to that tree. We gave them a chance to make a confession before squeezing them, but they refused to even deny that they know his whereabouts. We took the other brother, Paul, out to Camp Parapet, and strung him up there to warn the negroes in that direction that they cannot go about killing white judges. The two cousins we took out on the road and, after lashing them, started them up the road in the direction of the swamps, telling them to get out of the parish in less than thirty minutes or suffer the consequences.”
-Member of the mob. 5This quote was taken from another part of the incredibly long article.
The Reason for the Arrests
Originally there had been no intention of placing any member of Julian’s family under arrest, as it was then regarded as extremely improbable that they knew anything of his whereabouts. One report stated that in his wild flight for safety on Friday evening he had shot at his mother. This would seem to shut off any theory of whither he went. The other brothers, it was said, were working at different places when the tragedy took place, so that they had no chance to learn of his whereabouts.
What caused the arrest of the mother and two sisters yesterday was that on a visit being made to the house these females were found wrapping up some clothes and a loaf of bread. This aroused the suspicion that the articles were to be conveyed to the fugitive. The brother and the two cousins were discovered going over the Black bridge, and had a shirt bundled up as if it were intended for Julian. This naturally caused the finger of suspicion to be pointed towards them. The two brothers were caught coming out of the swamps and as they persistently refused to state whence they had come, they too fell under the bane of doubt. Hence all the arrests.
The Story of the Lynching
It was evident from the circumspection that was everywhere visible that guards, neighbors and everybody in the vicinity were apprehensive that some attempt might be made to rescue the prisoners by overpowering the officers of the law.
Constant rumors came in from different sources that the negro Roselius [Julian], the fugitive murderer had been seen first at one point, then at another, caused a hurrying up and down the road for a distance of about three miles on either side of the Estopinal place.
The darkness which brooded over the place, only faintly lit up by the young moon, made the experience of teh night one to be remembered. Hidden deep in the murky obscurity, the ghastly relics of the butchered men were swinging in the night wind, while all about the silence lay undisturbed. Man had come and gone, and these were the only traces he had left of his horrible handiwork. 6The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Sun, Sep 17, 1893 – Page 11. Here.
The next day, September 18, the Times-Picayune devoted their entire front page and half of their second to the story. Readers learned that Roselius Julian was still at large and were treated to crude drawings of the lynchings taking place the previous day.
Though innocent of any wrongdoing, the three victims were roasted by the paper. The entire family, it was written, “bear a bad reputation.” They had been repeatedly whipped by “regulators” and threatened with lynching.
Of Roselius, they wrote “he was a rabid Republican, and his campaign talk almost got him into trouble many a time, but his luck saved him.”
There was, insisted the paper, a conspiracy among the black community to rise up and kill the judge. Though they offered no actual evidence, they wrote that they “negroes .. .do not appear to know what fear is. This courage, coupled with their brutal instincts, is what causes them to be dreaded all the more. They may remain passively quiet for a while, but at that very time they may be plotting some desperate deed of daring. The slightest provocation, and in many instances no cause whatsoever, may precipitate the carrying out of their plots.
“The chief aim of these negroes appears to be the annihilation of the whites.”
Unable to find Julian, another jail was broken into and a black prisoner removed. “The supposition is that he was going to be lynched.” Another prisoner nearly met the same fate.
In fact, all was prepared for the capture of Julian.
The leaders were reticent and they talked only among themselves. It was impossible for any one, not excepting a great many of the determined men bent on metting out justice to the murderer, to learn anything define from the leaders.
Their quiet demeanor indicated that the work was not all done and that the hunt for the assassin was not to be relinquished until they should have the satisfaction of eitehr seeing his lifeless body dangling from a limb or smell his burning flesh.
It was current talk that an iron-topped sled had been constructed during the day and that it was to be used to burn the negro on if he was captured. Fire was to be built on the sled and the negro was to be bound to the fagots placed there on. 7The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Mon, Sep 18, 1893 – Page 1. Here and here.
Whites Still Under Arms
The following day, the 19th, the Times-Picayune could only muster enough information for three columns. “Whites Still Under Arms” ran the headline. Julian was still at large, but the “colored population has quietly disappeared.”
The sentiment is constantly gaining ground aomong them that their only chance for safety lies in flight. A great many of the blacks in the rear of the Seventeenth war, satisfied with the dangers, real or imaginary, which they ahve already endured, moved out Sunday and Sunday night [Sept. 17]. Scores of them are still leaving in all directions. Many made their way yesterday to Kenner and took the railway into the city. Others tramped in to CArrollton and quartered themselves with friends there.
Some of the negroes of this section are intelligent and industrious, and, having made their homes there, have invested their saving in property of various kinds. This they have been obliged by the events of the past few days to dispose of at ridiculously low prices. A venerable darkey, who is now the proprietor of a draying establishment, and doing a good business, yesterday offered, in the neighborhood of the police station, in Carrollton, to sell his home and establishment for $100, so pressing were his desires to leave at once. Another was heard congratulating himself loudly on being on the safe side of the parish line.
Where the negroes have gone no one seems to know. But that they have departed form the vicinity of Southport in large bodies is not only evident but is visible and undisputed. A general panic seems to have seized the negroes, and those even who have never been suspected in any manner in connection with the plot against the whites, have taken their departure. The scare among the rural negroes is not only on the Southport side of the Mississippi, but the infection has crossed the river and is going up and down the bank. 8The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Tue, Sep 19, 1893 – Page 2. Here.
Murder and Nothing Less
After days of reporting on the lynching and rumors of future lynchings, the Times-Picayune finally got around to denouncing the crime. On the 20th, they devoted but a few column inches to this denunciation.
While their front page was taken up with a rehashing of rumors and old news, page four had a small blurb:
The killing by the populace in the lower end of Jefferson, on Saturday night, of three men who were known to be innocent of the murder of Judge Estopinal, but, because of their relationship to the murderer, were suspected of sympathy with and of a desire to give him succor from his pursuers, was an act wholly inexcusable. It was murder and nothing less. 9The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Wed, Sep 20, 1893 – Page 4. Here. See also.
Over the next week, the paper’s coverage of the murder and lynchings continued, but little new information came to light. That is, until September 30th. It was then that what seemed like a typical lynching investigation broke wide open. Several anonymous witnesses came forward, but by October 3rd, the district attorney reported that none of the witnesses called to the bench claimed to know anything all about a lynching. 10The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Tue, Oct 3, 1893 – Page 3. Here.
By the 7th, the investigation of the lynchers as well as the search for Julian had ground to a halt. 11The Meridional; Abbeville, Louisiana; Sat, Oct 7, 1893 – Page 4. Here.
On the 18th, the district attorney finally released his report. While he condemned the lynching with the same language used by the Times-Picayune, he could not explain “why he was unable to get any facts from the forty-five witnesses whom he examined, and as he and his methods were the principal cause of this miscarriage of justice it is scarcely to be wondered at that he could not find where the trouble lay.” 12The Times-Democrat; New Orleans, Louisiana; Wed, Oct 18, 1893 – Page 4. Here.
Over two years later, Roselius Julian was discovered and killed. After eighteen months of wandering, Julian showed up in Chotard, Mississippi. After revealing his true identity to a local, an attempt was made to capture him.
“Julian resisted,” reported the Times-Picayune in late December 1895, “and, in the darkness of the night, a stray bullet struck the murderer just above the heart and killed him instantly.” 13The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Fri, Dec 27, 1895 – Page 12. Here.
It took six months for word to travel back to New Orleans. It did so with very little notice. The public had moved on. Over those two years, Louisiana would be host to over thirty more lynchings.
Nearly Ninety Other Lynchings This Week
What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between September 12 and September 18, 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. 14For 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
1888 Curtis Shortney Hinds MS Black Male Unreported Murder of a white man, a doctor 1889 Louis Mortimer Leflore MS Black Male Hanged Killing a black man who refused to join a gang 1894 James Smith Bradford FL Black Male Hanged Attempted to rape a young white girl 1895 John Thomas Mississippi AR Black Male Hanged and shot Murder and robbery of a married white woman 1896 Jones McCauley Ouachita LA Black Male Shot Sexual assault of two small black children 1897 Charles Gibson Bibb GA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Rape of unmarried white girl and killing of black man 1910 Robert Bruce Lake TN Black Male Hanged Entered a white girls’ room 1910 William Sharp Lake TN Black Male Hanged Entered a white girls’ room 1913 Unknown Tamms IL Black Male Shot Confrontation over use of counterfeit dollar at store 1914 Pat Bowers Lonoke AR Black Male Shot Murder of his wife; shooting and killed two white men 1920 William Echols Clarke MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of an aged white man, a night watchman 1936 Thomas Finch Fulton GA Black Male Riddled with bullets Attempted attack on white woman patient in Grady hospital
1882 Nathan Bonnet Barnwell SC Black Male Hanged/RwB Attempted outrage on a 16-17 year-old white girl 1887 Adam Mallard Randolph GA Black Male Riddled with bullets Hiding a son who was accused of attempting to murder a white man, a plantation owner 1892 Eli Lindsey Morehouse LA Black Male Shot Murder of a black man, a farm laborer 1896 John Lee Henry AL Black Male Riddled with bullets Involved in some kind of altercation, apparently with other blacks 1908 Daniel Newton Brookshire TX Black Male Hanged Brother of man who murdered white man 1909 John Holly Sumter AL Black Male Hanged Accomplice in murdering a married white woman 1912 H. Murphy Lafayette FL Black Male Riddled with bullets Attempted criminal assault on a white woman 1917 Samuel Cates Lonoke AR Black Male Shot Indecent proposals to white girls 1919 Unnamed Negro Catahoula LA Black Male Hanged/RwB Hiding under bed in a white man’s house with his shoes off 1921 Gilmon Holmes Caldwell LA Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of a white man, a telegraph operator
1877 George Anderson Arkansas AR Black Male Throats cut and hanged Murder of a young white man 1877 Jourdan Elligan Arkansas AR Black Male Throats cut and hanged Murder of a young white man 1886 David Johnson Westernport MD Black Male Drowned Murder of a white man 1888 Unnamed Negro St. Martin LA Black Female Shot Race prejudice 1892 Hugh Henry Larned KS Black Male Hanged Attempted assault of a white woman 1893 Ed Guyton Pickens AL Black Male Shot Arson of a mill and gin house belonging to a white man 1893 Ellen Fant Pickens AL Black Female Shot Arson of a mill and gin house belonging to a white man 1893 Paul Archer Pickens AL Black Male Shot Arson of a mill and gin house belonging to a white man 1893 Polk Hill Pickens AL Black Male Shot Arson of a mill and gin house belonging to a white man 1893 William Archer Pickens AL Black Male Shot Arson of a mill and gin house belonging to a white man 1893 Louise Carter Monroe MS Black Female Hanged Accessory to murder of three members of a white family 1893 Mahaley Jackson Monroe MS Black Female Hanged Accessory to murder of three members of a white family 1893 Rufus Broughs Monroe MS Black Male Hanged Accessory to murder of three members of a white family 1899 Ed Henderson Worth GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Assaulted woman; accomplice in a rape of 18 year-old white girl 1900 David Moore Tunica MS Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a prominent planter 1900 Frank Brown Tunica MS Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a prominent planter 1900 William Brown Tunica MS Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a prominent planter 1900 Pinkney Murphy Nelson VA Black Male Hanged Attempted rape of an unmarried white woman, a school teacher
1893 Jesse Mitchell Amelia VA Black Male Hanged/RwB Criminal assault on a 12 year-old white girl, a farmer’s step-daughter 1896 Charles Harris Volusia FL Black Male Hanged/RwB Criminal assault on a 7-8 year-old white girl, daughter of his employer 1903 William Williams Wilkinson MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Enticing workers to leave and killing a white man 1906 Mitchell Frazier Rosebud TX Black Male Hanged Cutting a white farmer 1911 Will Mixen Richland LA Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of his mother and threats to kill other family members 1924 Walter Bell Tunica MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Stealing a white man’s car and killing another white man, a plantation manager 1932 Frank Tucker Ashley AR Black Male Hanged Stealing $10 and wounding officer
1880 Archie Jameson Robertson TN Black Male Hanged Torture and murder of an old white man 1880 Jack Bell Robertson TN Black Male Hanged Torture and murder of an old white man 1880 Joe Ramsey Robertson TN White Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a young unmarried white woman 1881 Jane Campbell Claiborne LA Black Female Burned at the stake Murder of her two children 1886 Daniel Odwell Screven GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Rape of 12 year-old white girl 1888 — Sidairo St. Landry LA Black Male Riddled with buckshot Incendiary language 1888 Jean Pierre-SaletSt. Landry LA Black Male Riddled with buckshot Incendiary language 1893 Basile Julian Jefferson LA Black Male Hanged Complicity in murder of a white judge 1893 Paul Julian Jefferson LA Black Male Hanged Complicity in murder of a white judge 1893 Valsin Julian Jefferson LA Black Male Hanged Complicity in murder of a white judge 1893 Redmond Burke Breckenridge MO White Male Unknown Beating his wife 1896 Ben S. Morris Watonga OK Black Male Hanged Murder of prominent cattle dealer 1897 D. T. Watson Lonoke AR Black Male Hanged Race prejudice 1908 John Miles Pointe Coupee LA Black Male Hanged Robbery and assault of white storekeeper 1920 Oscar Beasley Angleton TX Black Male Unknown Murder of a sheriff
1892 Jim Harrison Calhoun AR Black Male Hanged Leading a negro uprising and threatening to kill whites 1893 John Willis Jefferson LA Black Male Kicked Complicity in murder of a white judge 1895 Aleck Francis Jefferson LA Black Male Hanged and beaten Dangerous and suspicious character 1898 Joe Thompson Tallapoosa AL Black Male Disemboweled Murder of three white persons: a wealthy farmer, his wife, and her brother 1905 Allen Pendleton Abbeville SC Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a white man following an altercation 1935 Ellwood Higginbotham Lafayette MS Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man
1885 Robert Birdsong Early GA Black Male Unreported Attempted rape of white woman 1885 Nicholas Snowden Ellicott City MD Black Male Hanged by black mob Assault of young girl 1887 Monroe Johnson Jefferson AL Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of a married white woman, ”a respectable ... lady” 1890 Unnamed Negro Monroe GA Black Male Hanged Rape 1893 Riley Gulley Wilcox AL Black Male Hanged/RwB Attempted rape of a married white woman, wife of a “highly respected farmer” 1894 Dave Goosby Lowndes GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Rape and murder of 12 year-old white girl 1895 Unnamed Negro Bossier LA Black Male Unreported Criminal assault on a white woman 1896 John Fitch Chambers AL Black Male Hanged Entered a young white girl’s bedroom 1903 Tom Heliom Mississippi AR Black Male Hanged/RwB Assaulted two young black girls, aged 5 and 10 1904 John Ware Franklin GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of young white man 1909 Unnamed Negro Sandy Point TX Black Male Unknown Part of “race war” 1909 Unnamed Negro Sandy Point TX Black Male Unknown Part of “race war” 1921 Ernest Daniels Chatham NC Black Male Hanged/RwB Found in a young white woman’s room 1923 John Gray Perry MS Black Male Shot Wounding a white man, a turpentine operator and father of two prominent physicians 1933 Richard Roscoe Leflore MS Black Male Shot Wounding a white man in a fight, biting off his index finger
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.||⇡||The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Sat, Sep 16, 1893 – Page 1. Here and here.|
|5.||⇡||This quote was taken from another part of the incredibly long article.|
|6.||⇡||The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Sun, Sep 17, 1893 – Page 11. Here.|
|7.||⇡||The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Mon, Sep 18, 1893 – Page 1. Here and here.|
|8.||⇡||The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Tue, Sep 19, 1893 – Page 2. Here.|
|9.||⇡||The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Wed, Sep 20, 1893 – Page 4. Here. See also.|
|10.||⇡||The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Tue, Oct 3, 1893 – Page 3. Here.|
|11.||⇡||The Meridional; Abbeville, Louisiana; Sat, Oct 7, 1893 – Page 4. Here.|
|12.||⇡||The Times-Democrat; New Orleans, Louisiana; Wed, Oct 18, 1893 – Page 4. Here.|
|13.||⇡||The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Fri, Dec 27, 1895 – Page 12. Here.|
|14.||⇡||For more information on all of this, please see our post here.|