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This Week in History – Cotton Gin, Freedom’s Journal, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Klan Violence, Lynchings

This week in history, we’ll take brief looks at the first black child in the original thirteen colonies, Eli Whitney, the first black newspaper, the black Pennsylvanian voting protest, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, as well as a quick glance at the 1880-90s Back to Africa Movement.

Also, the weekly section on lynchings has been expanded to include not only a numerical overview, but contemporary reports of the violence.

First Black Child Born in Colonies
(Mar. 19)
William Tucker was born to two African indentured servants in Jamestown, Virginia. His parents, re-named Antony and Isabell, had arrived in the new world with twenty other Africans in 1619 – they were probably the first Africans in the original thirteen colonies. Being indentured servants, they were not slaves. Though it was against custom, their master allowed them to marry. William became the servant of his parents’ master, though virtually nothing more is known about any of them. More here.

Eli Whitney Granted Patent for Cotton Gin
(Mar. 14)
In the early 1790s, slavery was declining. The cost of producing cotton, even with slavery, was hardly worth the trouble. Then came along Eli Whitney, who invented a way of mechanically cleaning cotton that completely changed everything. Now, the slaves could be fully utilized to pick the cotton, while Whitney’s gin did the more time-consuming labor. With this, cotton production, and slavery along with it, exploded in the South. More here.

First Issue of Freedom’s Journal, First Black Newspaper Published
(Mar. 16)
The Freedom’s Journal, published from 1827 to 1829, was the first fully black-run newspaper in the United States. Published out of New York City, this weekly ended up reaching an audience spread across eleven states and several countries. More information, as well as every single issue, is available here.

The first issue of Freedom's Journal.
The first issue of Freedom’s Journal.

Black Pennsylvanians Protest for the Right to Vote
(Mar. 14)
Pennsylvania’s 1837 Constitution seemed to give black citizens the right to vote. But because it did not specifically mention black males, many believed that it did not. In some places, blacks were allowed to vote, while in others, they were barred. On this date in 1838, Robert Purvis published “Appeal of Forty Thousand Citizens Threatened with Disenfranchisement,” which implored Pennsylvanians to give blacks the right to vote lest slavery be re-established within the state. More here.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is Released
(Mar. 20)
Stowe’s novel depicted slavery much differently than the typical antebellum fiction portrayed it. Because of this, it was largely responsible for the growing Northern backlash against the institution. More about Stowe and the book here.

Republican Party Organized (Mar. 20)

Out of the ashes of the Whig Party rose the Republicans – a party specifically united against slavery, though there was still much to be settled in that respect. To read more about its founding and its rapid growth, try this.

Hiram Revels Delivers First Speech in Senate
(Mar. 16)
Prior to this date, no black American had ever delivered a speech before the United States Senate. When Revels of Mississippi took the floor, he had just become the first black Senator. More about Revels here. You can read the entire speech here.

200 Blacks Left Savannah, Georgia for Liberia
(Mar. 18)
As part of the late 1800s Back to Africa Movement, 200 black Americans, many from Arkansas, decided to leave the United States, hoping for better lives for themselves in Liberia. We will be publishing an article about this in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned!

Klan-related – Georgia, Tennessee, California, Indiana, North Carolina
(Mar. 15)
Though touted as a “peaceful assembly,” Klan rallies across the nation turned violent. One in particular, in Oceanside, California, is described here.

Mar. 15, 1980: During Ku Klux Klan rally in Oceanside fighting broke out and man injured.
Mar. 15, 1980: During Ku Klux Klan rally in Oceanside fighting broke out and man injured.

Spanning March 14 through March 20, nearly 70 lynchings are recorded in the various lynching databases. These were conducted in at least fifteen different states, including every single state that had seceded from the Union. Other states include Pennsylvania and Kentucky. The vast majority of those lynched were black, but there were also eleven Italians lynched in New Orleans on March 14, 1891.

What follows are reports of seven of these lynchings taken from Thirty Years of Lynching by the NAACP and 100 Years of Lynching by Raplh Ginzburg. Both books are collections of newspaper clippings. I’ve arranged them in chronological order by year.

Coroner’s Jury Commends Mob for Cremating Negro (1901)
Corsicana, Tex., Mar. 13 – John Henderson, the negro accuse of murdering Mrs. Younger, was burned at the stake by a mob of 5,000 persons in this city to-day. He purportedly had confessed his guilt. Subsequently the coroner held an inquest over his remains and the jury returned a verdict commending the mob for its act of horror.
-Chicago Record March 14, 1901

Is Lynched By ‘Orderly’ Mob; Suspected of Cow Killing (1906)
Planquemines, La., Mar. 17 – William Carr, Negro, was lynched without ceremony here today by an orderly party of thirty masked men who hurried him to a railroad trestle and hanged him. He had been accused of killing a white man’s cow.
-New York Tribune, March 18, 1906

Lynched After Receiving Supreme Court Reprieve (1906)
Knoxville, Tenn., Mar. 19 – A message from Chattanooga to “The Journal and Tribune” says that Ed Johnson, the negro convicted of rape, in whose case the United States Supreme Court granted an appeal to-day, was removed from jail at 11 o’clock tonight and lynched.
-New York Tribune, March 20, 1906

Modern bridge over Round Lick Creek - the exact spot where Ballie Crutchfield was lynched.
Modern bridge over Round Lick Creek – the exact spot where Ballie Crutchfield was lynched.

Negro Suspect Eludes Mob; Sister Lynched Instead (1910)
Nashville, Tenn., Mar. 16 – Ballie Crutchfield, a colored woman, met death at the hands of a mob at Rome about midnight last night. The mob surrounded her home and took her to a bridge over Round Lick Creek, near the town. Her hands were tied behind her, and after being shot through the head her lifeless body was thrown into the creek. The body was recovered to-day, and the jury of inquest returned a verdict that she met death at the hands of unknown persons.

The lynching was the result of a suspicion that the negress was in some way connected with the theft of the contents of a pocketbook containing $120, which was lost by Walter Sampson last week. The purse was found on the ground by a negro boy, who was on his way to return it to the owner, when he was met by William Crutchfield, a brother of the dead woman, who induced the boy to give him the pocketbook upon the representation that the contents were of no value. Mr. Sampson and Crutchfield arrested, and he was taken to the house of Squire Bains for safe keeping.

That night a mob visited the house of Squire Bains and took Crutchfield from the custody of the Sheriff. The mob had started with Crutchfield to the place selected for the execution, when he broke from them and succeeded in effecting his escape in the dark. This so enraged the mob that they suspected Crutchfield’s sister Ballie of being implicated in the theft, and last night’s work was the culminatin of that suspicion.
-New York Tribune, March 17, 1910.

[Click here for location.]

Fifty Ky. Men Hang Negro Jury Failed to Convict (1921)
Versailles, Ky., Mar. 13 – Richard James, a negro, charged with the murder of Ben T. Rogers and Homer Nave, at Midway, this county, on October 8 last, was taken from the Woodford County jail by a mob early today and hanged from a tree two miles from this city.

The mob, composed of about fifty men, came to Versailles between 1 and 2 o’clock in the morning and wrested James from the jailer after overpowering him with a blackjack.

The trial of the negro for the murder of Rogers and Nave, who were guards at the Midway distillery, ended Saturday night, when the jury reported to Circuit Court Judge R. L. Stout that it was unable to reach a verdict.
-New York Times, March 14, 1921

Lynched for Remarks to Lady (1921)
Tampa, Fla., Mar. 15 – William Bowles, a negro, was lynched near Eagle Lake, Polk County, soon after three deputy sheriffs arrested him yesterday on a charge of making improper remarks to a young white woman.
-New York Post, March 15, 1921

Google Streetview of the vacant lot where the Lake Cormorant railroad depot used to stand. Railroad worker, Howard Hurd, was lynched near here.
Google Streetview of the vacant lot where the Lake Cormorant railroad depot used to stand. Railroad worker, Howard Hurd, was lynched near here.

Midnight Terrorists Lynch Negro Brakeman on the Y&MV (1921)
Lake Cormorant, Miss., Mar. 17 – A series of warnings by masked white men to negro brakemen on the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad to quit their jobs was culminated by the lynching here last night of Howard Hurd, of Memphis. Hurd mysteriously disappeared from the freight train he was working when it was halted at Clayton, Miss., for a hot box. He was found riddled with bullets 500 yards north of the Lake Cormorant station at 5 o’clock this morning. The following note was found in his overalls:

“Take this as a warning to all nigger railroad men.”

Hurd had been employed by the Yazoo and Mississippi for several years. For the past five weeks negro brakemen have been terrorized by gangs of white men who stop Y&MV trains between Memphis and Clarksdale, Miss., and molest them. Several negro trainmen have been severely beaten.
-Memphis Times-Scimitar March 18, 1921

More here.

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.