Over seventy recorded lynchings of black Americans took place this week in history. In today’s post, we’ll highlight five of them, sharing not only contemporary newspaper accounts but postcards made to celebrate the crimes. As usual of most lynchings, most of the victims were taken by force from the “protection” of local authorities. While most of the lynchings took place in the South, we’ll also take a closer look at a rare multiple lynching in Minnesota.
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.
Lynched Two in Louisiana (1901)
Shreveport, La., June 19 – Two of the negroes implicated in the murder of John Gray Foster were lynched by a mob at Benton tonight. One was Frank, commonly known as “Prophet” Smith, who, at the head of the “Church of God” movement in that section, was blamed as being responsible for the sentiment against the whites which led to the death of Foster. The other was F.D. McLand.
At 6 o’clock men began quietly to obtain horses and ride eastward, crossing the river there in twos and threes and ostensibly unarmed. They were all bound for Benton, and had a prearranged plan for meeting with a similar crowd from Bossier to form the lynching party.
The mob appeared before the Benton jail about 9 o’clock and made a demand on Sheriff Thompson for the prisoners. That official at first maintained hist attitude of the last few days, but was overpowered by the lynchers.
Having secured the prisoners, the mob went out on the Arkansas road about a mile and a half from the jail and strung them up. Both negroes made statements before they died denying that they had anything to do with the killing of Foster. While Smith died praying, McLand was silent as he was hanged.
There were about 200 armed men in the mob. The lynchers declare that the death of these negroes was necessary to the preservation of the lives of the white men in that section.
–Chicago Record-Herald, June 20, 1901
The Mod Laughed at His Prayers (1913)
Anadarko, Okla., June 13 – While the mob laughed at his prayers and pleas for mercy as the flames leaped up to his body, Bennie Simmons, an 18-year-old negro boy, charged with the murder of Susie Church, 16 years old, near Cogar, was lynched here between 3 and 4 o’clock Friday morning by a mob which was estimated to include probably 1,000 people.
All of the residents of the Cogar neighborhood, where the crime occurred, seemed to be in the mob and sympathy here was with them to such an extent that there was little effort to hinder the mob in its course. The crime was so brutal in character and feeling in the neighborhood was so high that Simmons was rushed to the county jail here immediately after his arrest to avoid the vengeance which had been threatened if the murderer could be found.
All day Thursday the mob was forming at Cogar and the more conservative citizens of the community, who were at first inclined to let the law take its course were swept away by the tide of popular feeling and the impassioned arguments of the mob leaders that such a brute should not be allowed to live even another day and by the time the start was made for Anadarko there was no division of sentiment and all alike were crying for blood.
The sheriff’s office here had been notified that the mob was forming and when assurance had been received that it had actually started for this city, the negro was removed to the old federal prison in “old town.” Little difficulty was experienced by the mob leaders, however, in locating him, and the guards who had been placed over him here made only a perfunctory resistance when the mob reached the old jail and demanded the prisoner.
He was taken out to a wagon bridge northwest of the city and hanged to a big cottonwood tree growing alongside the stream. The coal oil [kerosene] was poured over his body and lighted. The negro prayed and shrieked in agony as the flames reached his flesh but his cries were drowned by the yells an jeers of the mob.
As his cries grew fainter and it became evident that he was losing consciousness, a volley of shots came from the mob, every member of which, heavily armed, emptied his weapon into the swinging body, which was literally cut to pieces by bullets.
The members of the mob then departed for their homes, leaving the body still swinging. When news of the affair spread throughout the city great crowds thronged out to view the gruesome spectacle. The body was still hanging until after 8 o’clock when it was cut down by the sheriff, who is preserving in his office the rope with which the hanging was done.
–The Wetumka Gazette, June 20, 1913.
Three Roustabouts Lynched After Mock Trial in Minnesota (1920)
Duluth, Minn., June 16 – Three circus roustabouts, all negroes, were lynched here last night by a rioting mob of 5,000 for the alleged crime of attacking a 17-year-old white girl.
Isaac McGhie, Elmer Jackson and Nate Green were hanged at intervals of eight minutes after a mock trial had been held by the mob. The three men, held on suspicion of the crime, had been removed from the jail by the mob.
McGhie was the first victim. A noose was placed around his neck at 11:30 last night. He declared his innocence and pleaded for mercy.
Two Catholic priests begged the crowd to let the law take its course.
Rev. Father E.J. Howard climbed fifteen feet up a telegraph pole and under the dim glare of an arc light prayed for the crowd to release the negroes. He was hooted by the crowd.
McGhie was jerked into the air three times. The rope broke on the first two attempts. He begged for mercy until an impassioned speech was cut short by his third ascent.
Jackson was the next victim, followed by Green. Both declared they were not guilty of the attack.
Officials here said it was the first manifestation of mob spirit in Duluth in years. The storm last night broke slowly. Reports of the attack on the white girl were spread about town by afternoon newspapers. Groups collected in the streets.
“All of a sudden,” Police Lieutenant E. H. Barber said, “the groups melted into one huge mass which came tearing down the street toward the jail.
“We refused to give up the prisoners, of course. Then they go timbers and began wrecking things. We couldn’t stand them off.
“We called on the firemen. They came on the gallop, laying lines as they came. They poured water into the mob, using the highest possible pressure. The outskirts of the mob melted away, but the main body stood firm. Some fo the men were caught in the face and strangled as the water caught them. Most of them just humped their back and went on battering the doors. When they got inside, the men quickly determined that three of the black prisoners were guilty, hauled them out and hanged them.
“As soon as the three were dead the crowd dispersed and all was quiet. It happened so quickly it didn’t look real.”
–Brooklyn Times, June 16, 1920. 2For more information on this, please go here.
Outspoken Negro Killed (1923)
Palm Beach, Fla,. June 13 – The body of Henry Simmons, Negro, riddled with bullets, was found today hanging to a tree on Palm Beach Island. Simmons was a native of the Bahama Islands. He is said to have been an industrious and conscientious worker at a local ice cream plant but he also made enemies because he was outspoken on the treatment of American Negroes by Southern whites.
–St. Louis Argus, June 15, 1923.
White Attempts in Vain to Rescue Victims (1927)
Louisville, Miss., June 13 – Two negro brothers, Jim and Mark Fox, accused of having slain their sawmill superintendent after an argument over work hours, were seized by a mob early this morning, paraded through the streets of Louisville and then saturated with gasoline and burned to death at a telephone pole a short distance from town.
The terrified screams of the negroes touched one member of the mob who attempted to extinguish the blaze a moment after it had started, but the would-be rescuer was seized by others and dragged away.
–New York Times, June 14, 1927.
Over Seventy Other Lynchings This Week
What follows is a list of all known lynchings of black Americans between June 13 and June 19, 1879-1943. 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.
1883 Jordan Corbin Coosa AL Black Male Hanged Murdered white man and shot his wife and son 1885 George Edwards Clay GA Black Male Died of injuries after jumping from tree Stealing money 1887 Peter Betters Jamestown OH Black Male Hanged by black mob Assault of black woman 1891 Robert Clark Sullivan TN Black Male Hanged Outrage of a respectable married white “lady” 1893 William Shorter Frederick VA Black Male Hanged and shot Criminal assault on a white woman 1898 Moses Ricks Monroe AR Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Outraged a married white woman, a farmer’s wife 1910 Elmo Curl Panola MS Black Male Hanged Shooting a white man, a plantation manager and writing an “improper letter” to a white woman 1910 William Hunter Lincoln AR Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Entered an unmarried white woman's bedroom 1912 Unnamed Negro Wilcox GA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Murderous assault on prominent a white planter 1913 Bennie Simmons Anadarko OK Black Male Hanged,Burned Rape and murder of a 16 year-old white girl 1919 Clyde Ellison Lincoln AR Black Male Hanged Attempted attack on a young white girl 1927 James Fox Winston MS Black Male Burned Murder of a white man, a saw mill superintendent 1927 Mark Fox Winston MS Black Male Burned Murder of a white man, a saw mill superintendent
1883 Granville Warden Monroe AR Black Male Hanged Testifying against a white man in court 1885 Unnamed Negro Yazoo MS Black Male Hanged Attempting to outrage a white girl, daughter of a farmer 1893 Warren Ross Early GA Black Male Hanged Murder of young white man 1895 George Harris Montgomery GA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Frightening white woman 1899 Edward GraySt.John the Baptist LA Black Male Hanged Burglary 1899 Lewis Patrick Carteret NC Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a white storekeeper and burglary 1913 Jim Williams Leflore MS Black Male Shot Killing the cook of a white family and throwing her baby out the window 1915 Jules Smith Fairfield SC Black Male Shot Attempted criminal assault on a white woman 1915 Samuel Stevens Stephens GA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Assaulted 16 year-old white girl, daughter of prominent farmer
1879 Dave Benson St. Clair AL Black Male Hanged Outraged a married white woman and attempted to ravish two white girls 1882 James Mitchell Montgomery KY Black Male Hanged Outrage on a married white woman 1899 Dave Clark Appling GA Black Male Shot Attempting to shoot a white man, a constable 1901 Joe Harris Limestone AL Black Male Hanged Burning the barn of his white employer 1901 Mose Maxwell Suwannee FL Black Male Shot Plotting to murder a white man, a farmer and their employer 1901 Thomas Thomas Suwannee FL Black Male Shot Plotting to murder a white man, a farmer and their employer 1904 Jonah Woods Heard GA Black Male Hanged Threatening to report black gamblers 1909 Amos Smith DeSoto FL Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Attempted outrage on a married white woman, wife of a prominent citizen 1910 Otho Mitchell Holmes MS Black Male Shot and hanged Attempted to kill three white men 1915 Loy Haley Lafayette AR Black Male Unreported Murder of a white man, a young planter 1920 Elias Clayton Duluth MN Black Male Hanged Rape 1920 Elmer Jackson Duluth MN Black Male Hanged Rape 1920 Isaac McGhie Duluth MN Black Male Hanged Rape 1923 Roy Gaines Dade FL Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a white man, the town marshal 1923 William Simmons Dade FL Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a white man, the town marshal 1926 Primus Kirby Todd KY Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Murdered his wife and wounded a white man, a deputy 1943 Cellos Harrison Jackson FL Black Male Beaten Murder of a white man and attempted robbery
1888 Washington Ives Adams MS Black Male Hanged Entering a white woman’s bedroom; attempted criminal assault 1890 George Swayze East Feliciana LA Black Male Hanged Attempting to keep blacks from voting 1894 Owen Ogletree Monroe GA Black Male Riddled with bullets Attempted rape of white doctor’s wife 1898 Caleb Gaines Barren KY Black Male Hanged Attempted to outrage a young white girl 1899 — Williams Appling GA Black Male Unreported Attempted assault of a married white woman 1911 William Bradford Newton MS Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Assault on a white man
1882 Morgan Hamilton Prentiss MS Black Male Shot Murder of a 60 year-old unmarried white woman 1887 Benjamin Hance Leonardtown MD Black Male Hanged Attempted assault on a white woman 1891 Charles Griffin Suwannee FLBlack-mulatto Male Riddled with bullets Accessory to murder of white deputy sheriff 1898 Ham Thompson Elmore AL Black Male Hanged Murder of three white persons: a wealth farmer, his wife, and her brother 1898 Louis Spier Elmore AL Black Male Hanged Murder of three white persons: a wealth farmer, his wife, and her brother 1898 Reese Thompson Elmore AL Black Male Unreported Murder of three white persons: a wealth farmer, his wife, and her brother 1898 Soloman Jackson Elmore AL Black Male Unreported Murder of three white persons: a wealth farmer, his wife, and her brother 1900 Nat Mullens Crittenden AR Black Male Riddled with bullets Murderous assault of a white deputy sheriff 1927 Joe Upchurch Henry TN Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a white man, a sheriff 1933 Richard Marshall Baker GA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets As an example—terrorism
1882 Henry Huddleston Franklin TN Black Male Hanged Raped a white widow woman 1888 Spencer Collins Adams MS Black Male Hanged - strangulation Rape of a white woman 1892 John Johnson Pike MS Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a merchant 1895 William Chandler Lafayette MS Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Attempted criminal assault on a young, unmarried white woman 1901 Abe Barrett Harrison MS Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Assaulting an unmarried 15 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent citizen 1908 Ernest Williams Ashley AR Black Male Hanged Obscene language that was offense to black women 1918 George Clayton Richland LA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Killed a white man and wounding six others 1919 Jim McMillan Bibb AL Black Male Shot Unknown 1921 John Henry Williams Colquitt GA Black Male Burned Murder of 12 year-old white girl 1925 Robert Marshall Price UT Black Male Hanged Murder 1934 Otis Parham Montgomery AL Black Male Shot Killing a 23 year-old white man, a paroled convict
1888 — Davis Lee MS Black Male Unreported Attempted outrage of a young white girl 1891 Henry Jones Ashley AR Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Murder of his wife 1901 F. D. McLand Bossier LA Black Male Hanged Murder of a high status white man 1901 Frank “Prophet” Smith Bossier LA Black Male Hanged Murder of a high status white man 1909 Joseph Hardy Talbot GA Black Male Beaten Incendiarism: made speeches urging blacks not to work for whites 1912 Tom Jackson Clarke AL Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, the sheriff’s brother 1913 William Norman Garland AR Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Murder and attempted rape of the 14 year-old white girl, daughter of a former circuit judge 1921 Herbert Quarles McCormick SC Black Male Riddled with bullets Assault on a white 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.||⇡||For more information on this, please go here.|