This week, we’ll look into three separate lynching incidences. The first scrapes the surface of how confusing race relations were in the 1890s. In the second story, we’ll revisit the vigilante group dubbed The Whitecaps. And finally, a double lynching seems to follow an unwritten guidebook.
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.
Another Negro Hung
December 8, 1890
Our first account is of a lynching that was preceded by a murder and possible lynching. It shows well how confused race relations were in the South in the latter part of the 1800s.
Greenwood, Miss., Dec. 10 – Last night a party of men caught Mose Lemons, colored, near Roebuck, this county, and hung him to the same tree upon which Dennis Martin, the murderer of Gus Aaron, was hung. 2More information about the Aaron murder can be seen here.
Lemons was sent to inform Maj. W.H. Morgan, at Sheppardstown, ten miles below Roebuck, of the death of Mr. Aaron, soon after the killing occurred, but instead of going to Maj. Morgan’s he went to work to raise the negroes against the whites to avenge the hanging of Martin.
The negroes Lemons visited came and told the whites what he was doing. He was caught and the negroes told him to his face that he had tried to incite them to deeds of blood. 3Clarion-Ledger; Jackson, Mississippi; Wed, Dec 10, 1890 – Page 1. Here.
Whitecaps at Work
December 7, 1907
Between the two incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan, there arose a group calling themselves the Whitecaps. Originally from Indiana, they quickly spread south. Their stated intent was not just against the black race, but against any immorality. For instance, they lynched white people for adultery.
That said, once established in the South, they focused most of their energy against black citizens.
Mer Rouge, La, Dec. 9 – Following a lynching here five days ago, a whitecap outrage has been perpetrated, a negro farmer and his son being the victims.
Peter Burton, a well-to-do negro cotton planter, while on his way home from town Saturday night at 7 o’clock was assassinated from ambush while he sat on his horse, and his son, who was riding with him, was wounded in the hand. Another son escaped injury.
Pinned to the coat of the dead negro the following unsigned note was found:
“We’ve got him at last. We warn all white farmers not to discuss this matter.”
Burton’s body was literally riddled with buckshot, about a score of bullets piercing the head and various other portions of the body. The flying bullets also killed his horse.
The son was slightly wounded in the right hand, and he and his brother lost not time in fleeing from the scene. The boys declare they did not see anyone in the vicinity.
Burton left Mer Rouge about an hour before being slain. He had sold a lot of his cotton here and paid up his merchant. About $250 in cash was found in the dead man’s pockets, which fact is taken to indicate that robbery was not the motive of the assassins.
Burton, so far as known, had no enemies. He is a native of this section, and was generally respected by the white people. He always made good crops and was in prosperous circumstances.
The Coroner’s Jury could find no clue.
On last Wednesday night an unidentified negro was taken out of the town jail here and lynched because he had made an attempt a few hours before to murder the town marshal. This lynching has resulted in Governor Blanchard addressing a communication to Sheriff Scroggins and asking for full particulars and inquiring why the negro was not given protection. 4Weekly Town Talk; Alexandria, Louisiana; Sat, Dec 14, 1907 – Page 9. Here.
Peace Prevails Since The Negro Was Burned
December 8, 1922
Our final story is nearly a textbook lynching. A black man was accused of murdering a “pretty” white woman. He was arrested and allegedly confessed. Somehow or another, this confession was made public. After the news spread, a mob was formed. Police later insist that the mob was made up entirely of outsiders (thus protecting the whites of their town).
Following the lynching, many whites expected riots. When no riots came, they claimed that “peace prevailed here.” Two days later, they did it all over again.
Charlie Wright Burned at Stake for Having slain Miss Ruby Hendry, Florida School Teacher.
Perry, Fla., Dec 8 – Charlie Wright, negro, accused of the murder of Miss Ruby Hendry, young school teacher, was taken from the sheriff and burned at the stake at the scene of the crime early today by a mob estimated at several thousand men.
The negro, along with Albert Young, negro, was taken from the sheriff and his party as they returned to Perry to lodge the two men in jail.
Wright had been arrested at Madison, Fla.,early in the day and Young was taken at Kinderlou, Ga. Capture of the two negroes came after a six-day search in which hundreds of men from Florida and Georgia counties had participated at one time or another.
Both negroes were taken to a small stream, a few hundred yards outside the town, where last Saturday afternoon the young woman’s body was found by a passing train crew.
Both negroes were given an audience and Wright is said to have exonerated Young as the second negro who waylaid the young woman. He committed the murder, he is said to have confessed, while another negro robbed her. He did not name the other negro, but said it was not Young.
Following Wright’s talk, the mob proceeded to strap him to a stake.
Pine wood and grass were placed at his feet, and the works then set fire.
His body was burned to a crisp.
Young was turned back to the authorities and tonight he is in the county jail.
No other disorder was attempted. The mob which had streamed into Perry throughout the day, began to break up.
The young woman was murdered Saturday afternoon on the outskirts of town while coming from her home to town. The negroes were taken separately after an almost continual search, day and night, since Sunday, when evidence at the scene of the crime gave the authorities the first clue to the assailants.
One of the negros, Arthur Young, captured last night, admitted, according to authorities, that he robbed the young woman but claimed Charlie Wright was the one who slashed her throat with a razor. Popular feeling, which had been high here since the crime, which has resulted in the burning of three negro public buildings, reached a high pitch with the return of the two negroes.
Throughout the day parties of angry men had maintained a vigil on the road leading from Perry to Madison, awaiting the coming of the sheriff. As the day wore on, the number was augmented by men arriving from other communities.
Sheriff Lipscomb apparently got word that he could not get through the human barrier before the county jail and early tonight the word was passed around that he had already lodged the negro in the Perry jail and that he and his deputies were barricaded with them, well prepared to ward off any attack.
The report served to divert some, but others held steady to watch the road and when the sheriff came into view they were quick to act. Sheriff Lipscomb and his deputies were powerless to resist the attack.
The hoots and yells of the crowd heralded the two negroes’ entrance into town. Although compromised of men from many counties, including some from south Georgia, it is understood its common purpose gave the mob an organized appearance. No time was lost in rustling the negroes to the scene of the murder.
The following day, the paper updated the story:
Peace Prevails Here Today
Perry, Fla., Dec. 9 – Peace prevailed here early today, with county and state authorities reporting no racial outbreaks during the night following the burning at the stake of Charlie Wright, negro, by a mob estimated at several thousand men early last night after he is said to have confessed to having slain Miss Ruby Hendry, a school teacher, here last Saturday.
The police say that the mob, which gathered from the northern section of the state, quietly dispersed after Wright’s body had been burned to a crisp a short distance from here and by midnight the streets had been cleared.
Officials and an undertaker went to the scene of the lynching early today and prepared the body for burial.
The authorities are still holding in custody Albert Young, negro, who was captured in a Georgia town early yesterday after he had been trailed for six days. Wright, however, it is said, in his confession had exonerated Young.
Wright implicated another negro whose name he did not give as having robbed Miss Hendry after he (Wright) had cut her throat.
It was the intention of the mob to lynch both of the negroes, but following the alleged confession by Wright, the second negro was turned over to the authorities, who put him in jail for further investigation. 5The Gastonia Gazette; Gastonia, North Carolina; Sat, Dec 9, 1922 – Page 1. Here and here.
Though it mostly went unreported, the entire mob returned a few days later to lynch Arthur Young.
Lynch Second One in Pretty Young Teacher’s Murder
Perry, Fla., Dec. 14 – The second negro arrested last Friday for the murder of Miss Ruby Hendry, pretty young school teacher, near here several days ago, was lynched by a mob Monday night, it became known here today.
Arthur Young, who was implicated in the killing in a confession by Charles Wright 6You’ll recall that Wright’s supposed confession exonerated Young., who was burned at the stake last Friday night for the crime, was taken from officers Monday night as they attempted to transfer him to another jail, hung him to a tree and his body riddle with bullets by a mob of several thousand men.
The lynching occurred near Madison. 7The Salina Daily Union; Salina, Kansas;
Thu, Dec 14, 1922 – Page 9. Here.
Over Seventy-Five Lynchings This Week
What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between December 5 and December 11, 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. 8For 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
December 51880 James Anderson Jefferson AR Black Male Hanged Assaulting a married white woman and robbery 1884 Unnamed Negro Lincoln AR Black Male Riddled with bullets Attempted murder of a 70 year-old white man, a planter 1892 Cornelius Coffee Keystone WV Black Male Hanged, Riddled with Bullets Murder 1894 Mrs. T. Arthur Lincoln Co. WV White Female Unknown – done by White Caps Unknown 1898 Bedney Hearn Bossier LA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man 1898 John Richardson Bossier LA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man 1910 Calvin Ezelle Monroe AL Black Male Hanged Arson on barn and out houses 1910 Sylvester Peyton Monroe AL Black Male Hanged Arson on barn and out houses 1920 Unidentified Negro Holdenville OK Black Male Hanged, riddled with bullets Attack on a white woman
December 61877 Wash Atkinson Clark AR Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a prominent citizen 1881 William Allen Warwick VA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man 1890 Dennis Martin Leflore MS Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Killing a 35 year-old white man, a German storekeeper 1893 Will Lawton Abbeville SC Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Shot and robbed a Russian peddler 1893 Benjamin Minter Dallas AL Black Male Unreported Robbery and murder of a young white man, shopkeeper 1898 Jacob Glover Jasper GA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Murder of 18-year old white man 1899 Richard Coleman Mason KY Black Male Burned Rape and murder of the wife of a well-to-do white farmer, his employer 1900 Daniel Long Wythe VA Black Male Riddled with bullets Criminal assault on a married white woman 1905 Lewis Scott Bolivar MS Black Male Hanged Shooting and wounding white police officers 1911 Bud Walker Mannford OK Black Male Hanged and riddled with bulletsRobbing a white man 1912 Azariah Curtis Choctaw AL Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a planter
December 71882 Tim Robinson Morehouse LA Black Male Hanged Attempted murder of a white man 1882 William Cephas Morehouse LA Black Male Hanged Attempted murder of a white man 1887 Adam Charles Obion TN Black Male Hanged Rape of a 10 year-old white girl 1887 Andy Miller Obion TN Black Male Hanged Rape of a 10 year-old white girl 1887 William Smith Obion TN Black Male Hanged Rape of a 10 year-old white girl 1891 Richard Lundy Edgefield SC Black Male Riddled with bullets Murdered white sheriff’s son 1893 Jim Wilkins Dallas AL Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Robbery and murder of a young white man, shopkeeper 1900 Bud Rufus Floyd GA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Murder of married white woman 1907 Peter Burton Morehouse LA Black Male Riddled with buckshot and bullets Unreported; race hatred
December 81877 Mark Woodford Clarke AL Black Male Burned Ravishing and killing a married white woman and her 17 year-old daughter and then killing her two sons 1880 Joe Barnes Clarendon SC Black Male Hanged Murder of a 19-20 year-old white “lady” 1880 Julia Brandt Clarendon SC Black Female Hanged Murder of a 19-20 year-old white “lady” 1880 Vance Brandt Clarendon SC Black Male Hanged Murder of a 19-20 year-old white “lady” 1890 Mose Lemons Leflore MS Black Male Hanged Organizing blacks to avenge the lynching of a black man 1893 Joseph Givham Dallas AL Black Male Hanged Robbery and murder of a young white man, shopkeeper 1901 Sol Paydras Calcasieu LA Black Male Hanged Assault on white deputy sheriff and his wife 1915 Cordelia Stevenson Lowndes MS Black Female Hanged Implicated in the burning of a barn 1922 Charles Wright Taylor FL Black Male Burned Murder of an unmarried white woman, a school teacher
December 91878 William Cooper Decatur GA Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a “highly respected” white man 1885 Samuel Fowler Obion TN Black Male Hanged Arson and theft 1887 Andrew Edwards Webster LA Black Male Hanged Voodooism 1889 Jack Turner Green KY Black Male Hanged Murder of a young white man 1892 — Lightfoot Jackson AR Black Male Shot Fraud 1909 Unnamed Negro Warwick VA Black Male Hanging Unreported 1918 Joel Woodson Sweetwater Co. WY Black Male Beaten, Hanged Murder 1922 Less Smith Conway AR Black Male Hanged Murderous assault on a white man, a deputy sheriff
December 101886 George Parks Catoosa GA Black Male Hanged Burglary and arson of a white man’s home 1886 Monroe Smith Catoosa GA Black Male Hanged Burglary and arson of a white man’s home 1888 Noah Taylor Catahoula LA Black Male Hanged Murder and robbery of a white man 1890 Daniel Williams Gadsden FL Black Male Unreported Burning homes and out-buildings belonging to blacks 1897 Charley Lewis Simpson MS Mulatto Male Hanged Murdering a married white woman and her four children, family of a farmer 1905 James Green Bolivar MS Black Male Hanged Raping a 8 year-old black girl 1913 — Steppins Bolivar MS Black Male Hanged Wounding two white men
December 111887 Unnamed Negro #1 of 2 Pasco FL Black Male Burned Assaulted a married white woman 1887 Unnamed Negro #2 of 2 Pasco FL Black Male Burned Assaulted a married white woman 1894 Unnamed Negro Hempstead AR Black Male Unreported Outraged a little white child 1896 Gene Wilson Hinds MS Black Male Unreported Cattle theft 1896 Horace Daniels Hinds MS Black Male Unreported Cattle theft 1901 Ben Gates Lexington SC Black Male Shot Unknown 1908 Unnamed Negro Lowndes GA Black Male Unreported Shooting at a white child, a female 1914 Beard Henderson Caddo LA Black Male Hanged Murder and robbery of a white man 1914 Charles Washington Caddo LA Black Male Hanged Murder and robbery of a white man 1914 Watkins Lewis Caddo LA Black Male Burned Complicity in the murder of a white postmaster 1921 Fred Rouse Fort Worth TX Black Male Beaten and Hanged Shooting two white men 1921 Lonnie Newsome Gladwater TX Black Male Hanged Unknown 1922 George Gay Streetman TX Black Male Shot Attack on a white woman 1922 Arthur Young Taylor FL Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Implicated in murder of an unmarried white woman, a school teacher
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. ⇡ More information about the Aaron murder can be seen here. 3. ⇡ Clarion-Ledger; Jackson, Mississippi; Wed, Dec 10, 1890 – Page 1. Here. 4. ⇡ Weekly Town Talk; Alexandria, Louisiana; Sat, Dec 14, 1907 – Page 9. Here. 5. ⇡ The Gastonia Gazette; Gastonia, North Carolina; Sat, Dec 9, 1922 – Page 1. Here and here. 6. ⇡ You’ll recall that Wright’s supposed confession exonerated Young. 7. ⇡ The Salina Daily Union; Salina, Kansas;
Thu, Dec 14, 1922 – Page 9. Here.
8. ⇡ For more information on all of this, please see our post here.