Three Lynchings, Three Photographs – This Week in Historical Lynchings

While nearly every known lynching has a newspaper report behind it, relatively few were photographed. At lynching’s peak in the 1890s, George Eastman was about to change history. When he introduced the Kodak Brownie box camera in the early 1900s, almost anyone could afford to capture photos. It was at this time that an increase in lynching photography can be seen. The three photos presented below are from this time period.

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.

Three Negroes Lynched in North Carolina (1906)

On the night of August 6, 1906, Nease Gillepsie, John Gillepsie, and Jack Dillingham were hanged by a mob. This took place while trial of the three named, along with three others, was in progress.

Like more lynchings, there’s quite a bit to the story. What is detailed below comes from the Raleigh News and Observer, which printed the news as they received it. They also delved into the larger case, its background. The full article, much too long for a blog post, is available here.

Dragged From The Jail And Hanged By The Mob

Salsbury, N.C., Aug 6 – At 11 tonight and infuriated mob of several thousand citizens from Salisbury and the surrounding country overpowered Sheriff D.R. Julian, Jailer J.H. Krider and about fifty others and took from the jail four of the six negroes charged with the murder of the Lyerly family near this city three weeks ago.

The negros were carried by main force to the outskirts of the city, where they were being lynched at this hour.

The military company was called out, but were powerless in the face of the howling mob bent on the destruction of the sextet of criminals.

At the first attack several shots were fired in the jail door and Engineer J.C. McLendon, of Spender, Fireman Sells and Brakeman Mauney were dangerously shot. Private Maxwell, of the Rowan Rifles was also shot in the foot.

The firing of pistols became promiscuous, and militia not having authority from the Governor to shoot, left the scene.

The lights around the jail were knocked out by the mob, after which the prisoners were soon dragged out in the darkness.

Sheriff Julian Pleads Vainly

Sheriff Julian and his assistants plead earnestly with the mob to allow the law to have its course, but to no avail.

Photo of the lynching of Nease Gillepsie, John Gillepsie, and Jack Dillingham in Salisbury, North Carolina.
Photo of the lynching of Nease Gillepsie, John Gillepsie, and Jack Dillingham in Salisbury, North Carolina.

The blow to the community is keenly felt though the officers are not blamed.

When the crisis came Sheriff Julian exclaimed, “They have got the prisoners and you men of property in Salisbury will suffer for it.”

The officers made a brave and noble effort, but were outnumbered by the angry crowd. Time after time the mob surged and yelled till the doors flew open.

Then came shriek after shriek from the inmates of the prison.

“They have got them,” came in response from one in the entrance to teh prison, and the infuriated mass of humanity seemed pleased and satisfied.

The officers could have killed many, but there seems to have been no authority for such a course. Parties returning from the scene of the lynching at 12:30 o’clock report that the bodies of the three victims are being burned one mile east of the city.

The location has been the scene of several lynchings. The lynching tonight terminates the trial begun today, but it is not known what steps will be taken by Judge Long and Solicitor Hammer, now on the ground, as to the prosecution of the members of the mob.

The Horrible Culmination

Later – On the way to the scene of the lynching it is stated that the negroes were horribly mutilated by knives in the hands of some of the mob. Reaching the spot selected, the prisoners were given an opportunity to confess.

08.06.1906 - Gillespie1

One of the Gillespies thereupon admitted that he had assisted in the murder of the Lyerly family. This done, one of the doomed men, a rope having been adjusted about his neck, shot up into the air. Snap! went the rope, and the victim fell to the earth in a convulsed heap. Instantly he was seized and again strung up.

This time the cord stood the strain and the negro hung from the gallows of Judge Lynch, struggling a moment, then slowly growing still.

A second and a third man then darted into the air and hung by the side of the first, turning with a slow and horrible movement in the calm air of the night.

A crash of guns rang out, followed by another and another. The mob were pouring volley after volley into the dangling bodies. Then the firing ceased. The work of blood was done. The mob began to retrace their steps.

George Irvine, the fourth negro taken from the jail, was spared. He was returned to prison, and in company with two others, who had been left in jail, Henry Lee and Delia Dillingham, was later taken by officers to Greensboro.
-News and Observer; Raleigh, North Carolina; Wed, Aug 8, 1906

The aftermath of the lynching came quickly and was finely detailed in a long article appearing in the August 8, 1906 issue of the Washington Post. This can be seen here.

The Photo:
This image, likely taken by an amateur, is mostly out of focus. The shutter speeds, much slower than we’re used to today, show the slight movement of the bodies as blur. The tree, however, is crisp, which means the photographer probably used a tripod. It may have been rushed, but some care was taken to set up the shot. There was also enough time for the man on the right to quickly cover his face with his hat, also blurred.

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Negro Is Lynched By Mob At Center (1920)

Black Is Said To Have Confessed To Killing White Woman

Center, Tex., Aug 3 – A mob of more than 1,000 men at 3 o’clock this afternoon stormed the county jail, battered down the steel doors, wrecked the steel cell and took out Lige Daniels, a negro charged with the murder of Mrs. Maggie Hall, and hanged him to a limb of a convenient oak tree in the courthouse yard.

Postcard depicting the lynching of  Lige Daniels in Center, Texas. August 3, 1920.
Postcard depicting the lynching of Lige Daniels in Center, Texas. August 3, 1920.

The lynching followed a full confession made to the grand jury now in session, and also to the district attorney, J.P. Anderson.

Mrs. Hall, the wife of a well-known farmer living near Center, was brutally attacked and later found unconscious at a lonely point near her home last Thursday night. Her skill was crushed and her body bruised and lacerated. She was brought to a local sanitarium where she died Friday.

Lige Daniels was suspected on account of alleged threats previously made and after his arrest he made a full confession, which was reiterated before the grand jury.

Captain W.A. Bridges, commanding Company L, Seventh Cavalry, received wire instructions to protect the prisoner and to prevent the lynching, but was unable to find any of the members of his company in time for mobilization. Shortly after the lynching the immense crowd dispersed and the town quickly resumed its normal appearance.

Earlier in the day a message was received from San Augustine announcing that in the event the negro was not executed today a sufficient delegation from that county would arrive tonight to successfully attend to the matter.
-The Galveston Daily News; Galveston, Texas; Tue, Aug 3, 1920

The reverse of the postcard.
The reverse of the postcard.

The Photo:
Clearly taken by a professional, this photo was well-prepared. It’s fully in focus and everyone was ready for it – smiles and all. By 1920, the shutter speeds had increased enough that motion blur was no longer much of an issue for these types of shots. That said, as the photographer was a professional, a tripod like probably used.

The photograph was made into a postcard. The one presented here is inscribed, but never mailed. It reads: “This is where they lynched a negro the other day. They don’t know who done it. I guess they don’t care much. I don’t, do you?” At the very least, it shows us how quickly even then photographs could be turned into postcards.

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Two Negroes Victims Of Lawless Mob (1930)

Marion, Ind., Aug 8 – Quiet was restored in Marion today, after one of the most gruesome lynchings in the state’s history, in which two negroes were hanged in the courthouse yard last night after, allegedly, confessing that they robbed and shot Claude Deeter, 23, to death, and attacked his companion, Miss Mary Ball, 19.

Bodies of the negroes were cut down at daylight today by Sheriff Jacob Campbell, without resistance, after the threatening attitude of thousands of rioters had prevented earlier removal.

08.07.1930 - Indiana 1

The crowd surged forward when Sheriff Campbell cut the bodies down, and penknives came into play as the morbid assemblage sought “souvenir” shreds of clothing from the corpses. Some pulled buttons from the little remaining clothing on the bodies.

Authorities offered no resistance to the crowd, until an ambulance arrived to take the bodies away.

No shots were fired by officers during the lynching debacle, the strongest protest being from William Miller, turnkey [jailer], who under threats of death refused to give up the keys to the cells. None was needed.

“If a shot had been fired, three or four hundred persons, including women and children, woudl have been endangered.” Sheriff Campbell said in reply to criticism of his orders not to shoot.

“Dozens of the ringleaders openly brandished revolvers and one shot would have been the signal for a terrible slaughter.”

At the height of the disorder, the mob, including lookers-on, numbered nearly 20,000, Police Chief Lew Lindenmuth said.

Coroner O.L. Stot held a brief inquest, after which he returned a verdict that Thomas Shipp, 19, and Abram Smith, 19, Marion negroes, had met death as the result of a riot by persons so far unknown. Shipp was directly charged in an earlier verdict with the death of Deeter.

State and local police had the situation in hand today, and believed that no further violence would be forthcoming. A guard was thrown about the negro section of teh city, where an outbreak in reprisal was threatened earlier in the day.

Herbert Cameron, 16-year-old negro who had confessed that he was the third member of the trio who robbed and attacked Deeter and Miss Ball, will recover from the severe beating given him. Mob leaders apparently were satisfied that Smith and Shipp were responsible for the death of Deeter and attack upon Miss Ball, and there was no indication that Cameron was in further danger.

[…]

Photograph of the 1930 Marion, Indiana lynching by Lawrence Beitler. Mr. Beitler sold over 1,000 copies of the photo in the following week and a half after the lynching.
Photograph of the 1930 Marion, Indiana lynching by Lawrence Beitler. Mr. Beitler sold over 1,000 copies of the photo in the following week and a half after the lynching.
The Lynching Itself

The negro youths were arrested Thursday morning. In the afternoon crowds began forming about the county jail. Word went out all three negroes had confessed. Feeling began running high.

By nightfall, a crowd of 2,500 persons was milling about in the vicinity of the jail. The story of how the negroes had held up Deeter as he drove along a highway, dragging him from his car, robbed and shot him and then attacked Miss Ball, was retold over and over and with each re-telling, the general anger grew in its intensity.

About 9 o’clock, Hoot Ball, father of Mary Ball, entered the jail to talk with Sheriff Jacob Campbell. About the same time a group of men arrived from Fairmont, Deeter’s home town, 11 miles from Marion.

Ball remained in the jai a short time, then walked out into the crowd. He has been ill recently and was weak. The crowd jostled him and he fell. It was teh signal for violence ad within a few minutes the crowd, then numbering about 4,000, stormed the jail.

It was estimated only about 75 men actually took part in the rioting, but hundreds of others packed about the jail shouting encouragement. Sheriff Campbell issued orders to his deputies fire no shots, but police clubs were used freely and several heads were bruised.

The mob attacked in two places, one form teh front of teh jail, the other from the side. Tear gas bombs were tossed from teh jail windows, but the supply soon was exhausted and they stopped the mob only temporarily. One bomb was picked up and hurled back into the jail where it exploded among 45 prisoners.

Using crowbars and hammers, the mob ripped iron doors from their hinges, tore out windows, punched holes in the inside walls and forced its way to the bull pen, where a dozen stricken negro prisoners knelt in prayer.

Shipp and Smith were recognized immediately, dragged from the jail, beaten, kicked and hanged. Smith was taken a block away to the courthouse, shrieking in terror as he went. The rope with which he was hanged was 15 feet too long. The rioters tore the extra part into bis and passed them out as souveniers.

The crowd then returned to the jail for Cameron, who had been missed because no one recognized him among the dozen negro prisoners. All that was known was that he was young, so the mob selected the youngest prisoner they could find and dragged him to the court house. His life was saved by a member of the mob who recognized him as a youth who had been in jail for two weeks. He was returned to the Sheriff.
-The Vidette-Messenger; Valparaiso, Indiana; Fri, Aug 8, 1930

The 16 year old “Herbert Cameron” was actually James Cameron. After serving his sentence, he would go on to devote his life to the Civil Rights Movement, founding America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1991, the state of Indiana pardoned him for his part in the crime.

Nobody was ever charged for the lynching of Smith and Shipp.

The Photograph
With lynching photography, it’s rare to know the origin of the shot. This is an exception. The photo was captured by Lawrence Henry Beitler, who owned a photography studio in Marion. While it’s likely that he took several shots, this seems to be the only one he printed. For ten days following the lynching, Beitler hardly slept, as he was in his studio making prints to sell. They went for $.50 each, netting him at least $500 for a week and a half of work.

The photo did not remain in Indiana, but caught the ire of much of the nation. Like most lynching photos, spectators are shown. However, Beitler’s photo is different. There’s something more to it than mere presence. The spectators are almost the subject, especially the man pointing to the bodies. Beitler presents us with two images – the crowd and the victims – making it nearly impossible to look at both together.

Much more recently, the bottom half of the photo was made into a mural. First displayed in 2007, it was removed after complaints. More here. 2This was probably my first exposure to lynching photography. In 1992, Public Enemy used it for the cover of their “Hazy Shade of Criminal” single.

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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.

Over Seventy Other Lynchings This Week

What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between August 1 and August 8, 1877-1946. 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. 3For 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 woefully inadequate. For example – Texas, the state with more lynchings than almost any other, is completely uncounted. I’m working on ways to fix this.

Year	Victim	  City State	Race	Sex	Form    Alleged Offense

Aug 1

1879	Unnamed Negro      	  Union	LA	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted to rape a white woman
1881	Mike Walls			   Dyer	TN	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted assault on a white woman, a widow
1883	Abraham Booker	  Hempstead	AR	Black	Male	Shot			Killing a white man; race prejudice
1883	Alonzo Flowers	  Hempstead	AR	Black	Male	Shot			Killing a white man; race prejudice
1883	Eli Gamble		  Hempstead	AR	Black	Male	Shot			Killing a white man; race prejudice
1891	Eliza Lowe			  Henry	AL	Black	Female	Shot			Burning of the home of a prominent white farmer
1891	William Williams	  Henry	AL	Black	Female	Shot			Implicated in the burning of the home of a prominent white farmer
1891	Ella Williams		  Henry	AL	Black	Female	Shot			Implicated in the burning of the home of a prominent white farmer
1891	Willis Lowe			  Henry	AL	Black	Male	Shot			Burning of the home of a prominent white farmer
1893	— Anderson		   Franklin	LA	Black	Male	Unreported		Threatening to poison a well
1893	Unnamed Negro	   Franklin	LA	Black	Male	Unreported		Threatening to poison a well
1896	Isidore Mobley		 Dallas	AL	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Attempted murder of a prominent white man
1896	William Hunter		 Dallas	AL	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Attempted murder of a prominent white man
1901	Belford McCray		Carroll	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Murder of a white man and his wife
1901	Betsy McCray		Carroll	MS	Black	Female	Hanged/RwB		Murder of a white man and his wife
1901	Ida McCray			Carroll	MS	Black	Female	Hanged/RwB		Murder of a white man and his wife
1908	John Jones		 	  Logan	KY	Black	Male	Hanged			Approved of the killing of a white farmer by a black tenant
1908	Joseph Riley		  Logan	KY	Black	Male	Hanged			Approved of the killing of a white farmer by a black tenant
1908	Robert Boyer		  Logan	KY	Black	Male	Hanged			Approved of the killing of a white farmer by a black tenant
1908	Virgil Jones		  Logan	KY	Black	Male	Hanged			Approved of the killing of a white farmer by a black tenant
1916	Lazarus Rouse		 Lenoir	NC	Black	Male	Shot			Making improper comments about white girls
1922	Bunk Harris			Garland	AR	Black	Male	Hanged			Burglary and murder of a white insurance solicitor
1922	John “Cockey” GloverMonroe	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of white deputy sheriff and a black man — later the black man died

August 2

1884	John Fitzhugh  Rappahannock	VA	Black	Male	Hanged					Attempted outrage on a married white woman
1899	Man Singleton		  Grant	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted rape of the wife of a white planter
1901	Charley Bend	  St. Clair	AL	Black	Male	Hanged - strangulation	Assault on a 25 year-old white man and attempted criminal assault on his wife
1919	Archie Robinson		 Clarke	AL	Black	Male	Shot					Assault of a young white man; demonstrating against whites
1919	Unnamed Negro		 Clarke	AL	Black	Male	Shot					Assault of a young white man; demonstrating against whites
1931	Oscar LivingstonPlaquemines	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with buckshot	Attempted assault on a white girl


August 3

1880	Unnamed Negro #1	  Mason	KY	Black	Male	Unreported				Killing a white man
1880	Unnamed Negro #2	  Mason	KY	Black	Male	Unreported				Killing a white man
1896	Henry Waite		   Franklin	LA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Outraged and murdered a 19 year-old white girl. A milk maid.
1899	Louis Henderson		  Early	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Criminal assault on a 6 year-old white girl
1903	John L. Hunter	   Marshall	TN	Black	Male	Shot					Unknown offense
1903	John Millikin	   Marshall	TN	Black	Male	Shot					Unknown offense
1910	Unnamed Negro	  Talladega	AL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Unknown
1921	Lemuel Johnson	  Brunswick	VA	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of a white man, a postmaster
1934	Grafton Page		  Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Beaten to death			Attempted rape; insulting a black girl
1946	J. C. Farmer		   Nash	NC	Black	Male	Shot					Altercation/scuffle with a white man, a policeman, resulting in the cop getting a bullet wound in the hand

Aug 4

1877	Thomas C. KilpatrickPickens	AL	White	Male	Shot					Hunting a black man accused of killing a white man
1877	William T. Story	Pickens	AL	White	Male	Shot					Hunting a black man accused of killing a white man
1886	Henry Davis		   Richmond	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Outraging a 8 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent citizen
1887	George Evans		Leflore	MS	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Killing a black man, a Mason
1892	Allen Carter		  Cross	AR	Black	Male	Unreported				Criminal assault on his 14 year-old daughter
1901	William Price		Carroll	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Complicity in murder of a white man and his wife
1904	Andrew Dudley		 Nelson	VA	Black	Male	Hanged					Attempted criminal assault on two young white girls
1905	"Kid" George		  Perry	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Accessories to the murder of a white man, a convict guard
1905	Edward Lewis		  Perry	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Accessories to the murder of a white man, a convict guard
1908	Will Millen		  Jefferson	AL	Black	Male	Hanged					Dynamiting the house of a black coal miner and being an union activist
1912	Sam Verge			 Sumter	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Accomplice in murdering his 30 year-old white employer, a prominent planter
1923	Howard Flowtow		 Panola	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Attacking a white woman
1926	Johnny Norris 		 DeSoto	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Improper advances to a 10 year-old girl
1935	Bodie Bates			Calhoun	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Attempting to attack a 22 year-old white girl


Aug 5

1891	Unnamed Negro		Pickens	SC	Black	Male	Unreported				Assaulted a “respectable and crippled [married] white woman”
1914	Oli Romeo		St. Tammany	LA	Black	Male	Dragged					Murder of a white man, a marshal
1915	Will Leach			  Pasco	FL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Attempted criminal assault on a 13 year-old white girl
1919	Unnamed Negro	   Bleckley	GA	Black	Male	Hanged					Advocating armed black resistence to white supremacy
1931	Neal Quinn		    Lowndes	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted criminal assault of 11 year-old white girl

Aug 6

1897	Jeff Johnson	   Cleburne AL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Attempted criminal assault on a 14 year-old white girl, daughter of a well-to-do man
1897	John Clark			Barbour	AL	Black	Male	Hanged					Entered the bedroom of a young white girl, his employer’s daughter
1906	Jack Dillingham		  Rowan	NC	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Murder of a white family (husband, wife, and 2 children)
1906	John Gillespie		  Rowan	NC	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Murder of a white family (husband, wife, and 2 children)
1906	Nease Gillespie		  Rowan	NC	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Murder of a white family (husband, wife, and 2 children)
1914	Henry Holmes	   Ouachita	LA	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder and robbery of a white man,  grocer

Aug 7

1878	Calvin Beatty	 Williamson	TN	Mulatto	Male	Shot					Rape of a 6 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent citizen
1897	Nathaniel Mason	 Montgomery	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Assaulting a married white woman, wife of a physician
1901	John Pennington		 Coffee	AL	Black	Male	Burned					Assault on a married white woman, the wife of a prominent farmer
1902	Henry Benton	  Claiborne	LA	Black	Male	Hanged and shot			Criminal assault on a young white “lady”; on a 4 year-old child
1914	Dan Johnson	       Ouachita	LA	Black	Male	Hanged - broken neck	Murder and robbery of a white man, grocer
1914	Louis Pruitt	   Ouachita	LA	Black	Male	Hanged - strangulation	Murder and robbery of a white man, grocer
1918	"Bubber" Hall	  Morehouse	LA	Black	Male	Hanged					Criminal assault on a married white woman, wife of a well known lawyer
1930	Abe Smith			 Marion IN	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder, rape
1930	Tom Shipp			 Marion	IN	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder, rape

References   [ + ]

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