Near-Lynchings and Mutilations: A Weekly Look at Historical Lynchings

This week, we’ll take a closer look at not only some of the fifty or so lynchings that took place between April 25 and May 1, but a couple of near-lynchings. These include the 1902 whipping of four people from Indiana, a black teenager who was mutilated for kissing a white girl, and two men who were both saved from lynchings only to meet that fate days later.

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.

Four Are Whipped and Beaten (1902)

Three Women and a Man Beaten Near Bloomington
Bloomington, Ind., April 26 – Twelve masked men, carrying bundles of switches, visited the house of Rebecca and Annie Stevens, two middle-aged white women who live a mile north of this city, this morning at 1 o’clock and dragged from the house a negro Joe Shively, who had been living there several weeks.

Shively was roughly handled, taken to a grove of trees near the house, tied to a sapling and severely beaten. A few minutes afterward the two white women and Shively’s sister, a young colored girl, were taken from the house, stripped to the waist, and whipped until the blood ran.

The mob was led by a tall man, whose orders were obeyed implicitly. He allowed no talking and the punishment given the four was administered in silence, only the screams of the victims being heard by terrified neighbors.

The Stevens house has borne a bad reputation in this community. It was learned by the members of the mob that a negro had been living at the house for some time on terms of perfect equality with the white women. His sister also was there.

Stories of more or less unprintable nature were afloat, and rumors that the people in the house would be severely dealt with had been whispered around. So far as known no warning of the proposed visit of the whitecappers had been given to the Stevens women. The belief here is that the twelve men that composed the mob are citizens of Bloomington of excellent character. Some names are whispered about with the utmost caution.

It is said that public opinion became so aroused at the condition of affairs that a trip to the house was decided on and the details quietly planned. After being lashed fully fifty times Shively was ordered to leave the county, and it is said that he obeyed the mandate at once. The Stevens women were ordered to depart, it is said, but it is not known whether they have gone. The whitecapping has created great excitement here, and sentiment seems to be with the unknown visitors to the Stevens home.
-Indianapolis Journal, April 27, 1903. 2Other papers, much farther away (NYT), reported that the attackers were unmasked and numbered thirty-eight. It was also reported that the white victims were aged thirteen and sixteen. Other details that barbed wire and brass knuckles were used were also reported.

Negro Youth Mutilated for Kissing White Girl (1914)

Marshall, Tex., April 29 – Because he is alleged to have hugged and kissed a white girl, daughter of a farmer, Charles Fisher, a negro youth, was recently badly mutilated by a mob near here. According to Sheriff Sanders and County Health Officer Taylor, the mob sheared off the youth’s ear, slit his lips and mutilated him in other ways below the belt.
-Boston Guardian, April 30, 1914.

Illiterate Negro Lynched for Writing Improper Note

Shreveport, La., April 29 – A Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific train was held up by an armed mob about five miles from Monroe, La., today, and George Holden, a negro, accused of writing an insulting note to a white woman named Onlie Elliot, was taken from the train and shot to death. Holden was taken from a stretcher in the baggage car. He had been wounded in two previous attempts to lynch him.

Holden was being sent to Shreveport for safekeeping. He was shot in the leg Monday night by unidentified persons shortly after the woman received the insulting note. Later he was beaten into insensibility. When the local sheriff heard of this, he placed Holden aboard the VS&P train for the purpose of taking him to Shreveport for safekeeping. Local citizens, hearing of this, raced ahead of the train in automobiles and reaching the next station pulled the helpless negro form the train, took him to a nearby tree and riddled his body with bullets.

The note sent to Mrs. Elliot was written in plain handwriting. Acquaintances of the Negro state that he had no education and could hardly write his name.
-Knoxville East Tennessee News, May 1, 1919.

Lynching of Lint Shaw.
Lynching of Lint Shaw.

Lynched Just Before Trial

Royston, Ga., April 28 – Lint Shaw, a burly negro farmed once saved from lynching through the pleadings of an aged judge was shot to death by a mob of forty men eight hours before he was to have gone to trial on a charge of attempted criminal assault today.

His body was found at dawn, tied to a pine tree in a creek bottom near Colbert, Ga., his home.

Pierced by shotgun, pistol and rifle bullets, he died at the scene where two white girls reported he attempted to attack them after their motor car broke down April 10.

The mob, climaxing a series of demonstrations against the 45-year-old negro which once required the intervention of national guardsmen, broke into Royston’s one-story jail about midnight, cornered Night Chief of Police W.A. Dickerson and smashed a lock on the prisoner’s cell.

‘I couldn’t see exactly what happened,’ Dickerson said. ‘They just told me they wanted the negro. He didn’t say a word when they dragged him out.’

Plowlines, cotton ropes used for guiding work animals in the fields, were cut up to tie the negro to the tree.

Second photograph of Shaw's body.
Second photograph of Shaw’s body.

The jail here was the third in which he had been held since he was identified by the girls as the man who pursued them with a knife and threw one into a gulley. The assailant was frightened away by their screams.

First he was taken to jail a Daniesville, Ga. A mob of 100 men formed there and battered some bricks from the jail in an attempt to reach him.

Superior Judge Berry T. Moseley, 74, left a sickbed to warn the throng against a lynching, and deterred the leaders until a national guard unit, rushed to that city from tornado emergency duty at Gainesville, Ga., took the negro into custody.

‘Stop violating the law by breaking into jail,’ warned the judge.

At Judge Moseley’s suggestion, Sheriff T.L. Henley deputized several members of the crowd to help keep order.

From Danielsville, Shaw was taken to Atlanta, to save him from further mob outbreaks. He was returned to Danielsville last night to await trial before Judge Moseley, but a threatening crowd caused Sheriff Henley to move him to this city. Inflamed citizens learned of the transfer and followed.

Several house after the lynching, Shaw still was found to the three as throngs assembled on the nearby highway.

Terrified members of the negro’s family refused to claim the body.
-Hickory (North Carolina) Record, April 28, 1936.

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.

Nearly Fifty Other Lynchings This Week

What follows is a list of all known lynchings of black Americans between April 25 and May 1, 1882-1939.
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.

Year	Victim	  City State	Race	Sex	Form    Alleged Offense

April 25

1895	George Ray	    Washington	KY	Black	Male	Hanged		Illicit relations with white women and making threats against whitecaps
1901	William Goolsby		Elbert	GA	Black	Male	Drowned		Assaulted 14 year-old white girl
1909	John Thomas	     Jefferson	AL	Black	Male	Hanged		Criminal assault on a married white woman
1926	Lillie Cobb	        Blount	AL	Black	Female	Shot		Unreported

April 26

1903	Unknown	Negro	   Near Thebes	IL	Black	Male	Hanged		Assault on white girl
1921	Unnamed Negro	   Pearl River	MS	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB	Assaulting a white woman, wife of a dairyman

April 27

1884	King Hill	      Ouachita	LA	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a young white man
1894	Pomp Claxton	       Madison	LA	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a white manager of a plantation
1894	Scott Harvey	       Madison	LA	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a white manager of a plantation
1894	Shell Claxton	       Madison	LA	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a white manager of a plantation
1894	Tony McCoy	       Madison	LA	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a white manager of a plantation
1895	Thomas Gibson	        Sevier	TN	White	Male	Shot		Failure to heed a whitecap notice
1898	Paris Suits	          Wise	VA	White	Male	RwB		Murdering a white man and a black man
1899	Alfred Thurman	           Lee	GA	Black	Male	RwB		Informer on criminality of three black men who were lynched
1926	Charles Davis	      Hernando	FL	Black	Male	Unreported	Murder of a white man, a deputy sheriff

April 28

1883	George Ware	    Lauderdale	AL	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Murder and robbery of 12 year-old white boy
1886	Meredith Jones	         Logan	KY	Black	Male	Shot	Attempted rape of two white girls
1887	Gracy Blanton	  West Carroll	LA	Black	Female	Hanged	Robbery and arson of a white man’s store
1887	Richard Goodwin	  West Carroll	LA	Black	Male	Hanged	Robbery and arson of a white man’s store
1892	Henry Grizzard	      Davidson	TN	Black	Male	Hanged	Raped two white girls, sisters
1895	Unnamed Negro	        Butler	AL	Black	Male	Hanged	Murder of a white man and burning his body, a nephew of an ex-Governor of Alabama
1904	Thomas Searcy	       Haywood	TN	Black	Male	Hanged	Attempted rape of 8-9 year-old white girl, daughter of a farmer
1909	Charles Scarborough	  Polk	FL	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Attempted rape of a married white woman
1915	Thomas Brooks	       Fayette	TN	Black	Male	Hanged	Murder of two white men and wounding a white deputy
1936	Lint Shaw	       Madison	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted criminal assault on a white woman
1939	Jesse Lee Bonds	        Shelby	TN	Black	Male	Shot and beaten	Altercation with a white man, a storekeeper

April 29

1877	A. McClellan	        Kemper	MS	White-Scottish	Male	Shot by KKK	Murder of a white man, a Democrat
1877	Cornelia Chisolm	Kemper	MS	White		Female	Shot by KKK	Protecting her father who was accused of the murder of a white man, a Democrat
1877	Davis Rosser		Kemper	MS	White		Male	Shot by KKK	Murder of a white man, a Democrat
1877	J. P. Gilmer		Kemper	MS	White		Male	Shot by KKK	Murder of a white man, a Democrat
1877	Johnnie Chisolm		Kemper	MS	White		Male	Shot by KKK	Murder of a white man, a Democrat
1877	Judge Chisolm		Kemper	MS	White		Male	RwB by KKK	Murder of a white man, a Democrat
1891	Jim Taylor	    Williamson	TN	Black		Male	Hanged/RwB	Shot a circus man and a white police officer
1892	Unnamed Negro	     Sunflower	MS	Black		Male	Unreported	Outraged a 8 year-old white girl, niece of a sheriff
1895	John Coleman		 Duval	FL	Black		Male	RwB	Shot and mortally wounded his wife because she did not make good soup
1906	William Brown	    Tishomingo	MS	Black		Male	Hanged	Murder of a white man, a railroad contractor
1919	George Holden	      Ouachita	LA	Black		Male	Shot	Writing an insulting note to a “respectable white lady”
1936	Willie Kees	      Poinsett	AR	Black		Male	Shot	Attempted rape

April 30

1882	Frank Fisher	       Gallion 	OH	Black	Male	Hanged		Assault of young girl
1892	Eph Grizzard	      Davidson	TN	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB	Raped two white girls, sisters
1899	Willis Sees	   Mississippi	AR	Black	Male	Hanged		Barn-burning and suspected of burning houses
1900	George Gordon	  Tallahatchie	MS	Black	Male	Hanged		Assaulted a white man, a plantation manager
1900	Henry Ratcliff		 Amite	MS	Black	Male	Hanged		Altercation with three white men; race prejudice
1902	Ernest Dewley		 Meade	KY	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB	Shooting (wounding) a young white man
1904	Gaines Hall	       Autauga	AL	Black	Male	RwB		Criminally assaulted a married white woman
1907	Silas Faly	       Bossier  LA	Black	Male	Hanged		Outraged an 8 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent planter

May 1

1883	Amos Bailey	      Franklin	MS	Black	Male	Hanged		Murdering a white man, a prominent farmer
1888	Henry Pope	     Chattooga	GA	Black	Male	Hanged		Rape of a white woman
1888	Tom Harris	        Warren	MS	Black	Male	Unreported	Criminally assaulting a white woman
1891	John Barrentine	       Lowndes	MS	Black	Male	Hanged		Attempted poisoning of a white man
1891	Wesley Lee	       Lowndes	MS	Black	Male	Hanged		Attempted poisoning of a white man
1892	Lyman Purdie	        Bladen	NC	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a white man
1901	Dock Mays	        Dallas	AL	Black	Male	Shot		Implicated in murder of a white man, a deputy sheriff
1901	Edward Mays	        Dallas	AL	Black	Male	Shot		Implicated in murder of a white man, a deputy sheriff
1901	Robert Dawson	        Dallas	AL	Black	Male	Shot		Implicated in murder of a white man, a deputy sheriff

For more information concerning the lynching data, please see our page here.

References   [ + ]

Has always had a love for history and the Civil War. During the 150th anniversary of the war, writing 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, decided to dig a little deeper into the causes and repercussions of the War.