The Unweildy Justice of the Lynch Mob – This Week in Lynchings

In the Jim Crow era, justice for black citizens was often illusive, even when attempted through legal means. When the law was instead placed in the hands of a vigilante lynch mob, justice wasn’t simply illusive, it was incompetently deadly. Among the eighty or so lynchings that took place this week in history, we’ll highlight four. In two, the mob, in its blind and unconstitutional rage, murdered people who immediately proved to cases of mistaken identities. In the two others, unable to control themselves, innocent bystanders were gravely wounded.

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.

One Negro Lynched; Four Beaten (1903)

Norway, S.C., July 1 – Charles Evens, colored, suspected of the murder of John L. Phillips, was taken from the jail here last night and lynched by an unmasked mob. Four other negroes who were confined in the jail were also taken by the mob and beaten into insensibility. Evans was charged with murdering John T. Phillips, a one armed confederate soldier.
Chicago Record-Herald

Mob Lynches Negro Man, Flogs Three Negro Women (1903)

Columbia, S.C., July 1 – A dispatch just received here form Piedmont, Anderson county, says that Ruben Elrod, a respectable old negro, was shot and killed at his house last night by a mob of fifty men. Three women who lived in the house were taken out, stripped, and flogged severely, and then warned to leave the county. No reason for the attack was given.
Chicago Record-Herald

Two Accidentally Killed in Swamp Hunt for Negro (1914)

Shaw, Miss., June 30 – A member of the posse hunting for Jack Farmer, negro, was accidentally shot and killed by a fellow member of the posse early today. Fred Young mistook James Jolly, a fellow posseman, for Farmer as they were both pushing their way through a swamp here where it was believed Farmer was hiding.

This is the second life sacrificed in the hunt for Farmer, who is wanted for fatally shooting Earl Chase, a leading citizen in the county. The other death was that of Jennie Collins, a negro woman, who was alleged to have assisted Farmer in his flight.
Atlanta Constitution

Fatally Wounded Wrong Negro (1919)

Dublin, Ga., July 2 – A negro, Cleveland Butler, was shot and fatally wounded by four white men in Twiggs county yesterday, according to news reaching Dublin, when he was arrested by the men on suspicion that he was Hubert Cummings, the negro badly wanted in Laurens county. After the negro had died, parties from Dublin saw him, and stated positively that he was not Cummings.

According to the story told by members of the Laurens county parties who went to identify the negro, the four white men implicated were Messrs. Tharpe, Griffin, Myers, and another man they did not know.

These men stated they heard of a strange negro working in the chalk mines just over the line in Twiggs county, and after seeing him, decided that he very much resembled Cummings. They decided to capture him, and laid their plans.

Learning that he was asleep at a negro house near the mines, they went to the house Tuesday, and went into the room where the negro was sleeping. They stated they called to him twice, and when he did not answer, they decided he might be preparing to shoot at them through the coverings, and decided to shoot first, which they did.

The load from the shotgun fired at close range tore away a portion of the negro’s jaw and chin, teeth and tongue, making an ugly wound. Neither of the men was an officer of any kind, but they carried the negro to the sheriff of Twiggs county, who refused to take him, telling the men that the negro should go to the hospital at once, and if he proved to be Cummings, Macon was the place to carry him.

They carried the negro to the jail in Macon, but here again the sheriff refused to take him but told the men to rush the man to the hospital at once. They carried him to the Macon hospital, where he died a few minutes after being taken in.

While this was going on Deputy Sheriff Lester Watson had been notified by Sheriff Griffin of the negro’s capture, and he gathered a party who knew Cummings well, and went to Macon to identify the negro.

The Dublin party saw the negro about ten minutes after he had died, and immediately stated that he was not Cummings. Although he favored Cummings, the dead negro was reported lighter in color, with an old scar on his face that Cummings did not have. The men from this county were positive that it was not Cummings.

Just what will be the outcome of the case against the white men who were responsible for the negro’s death is not known here, but they are in a rather peculiar and somewhat uncomfortable position as a result of the affair.
Dublin Herald

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 Eighty Other Lynchings This Week

What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between June 27 and July 3, 1869-1929. 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. 2For more information on all of this, please see our post here.

Year	Victim	  City State	Race	Sex	Form    Alleged Offense

June 27

1893	Ernest Murphy	     Tallapoosa	AL	Black	Male	Hanged/riddled with bullets	Criminal assault on an unmarried white woman
1894	George Linton		Lincoln	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempting to outrage a married white woman
1895	Thomas Bowen		Lincoln	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Criminal assault on a blind white woman
1896	John Manuel           Oktibbeha	MS	Black	Male	Shot				Breaking into a white woman’s room
1899	Henry Stewart		 Fulton	KY	Black	Male	Hanged				Robbery and assault on a white man
1907	Mathis Jackson		Rapides	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Criminal sssault on a young white woman
1908	Albert Baker		   Ware	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets		Rape of 14 year-old white girl
1908	Unnamed Negro		  Wayne	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Complicity in rape of 14 year-old white girl
1908	Walter Wilkins		   Ware	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Rape of 14 year-old white girl
1910	— Jones		        Simpson	MS	Black	Male	Shot				Assaulting a white man, a farmer, and killing another white man
1911	Joe Watts		 Walton	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Watching little white girls while their father was away
1911	Thomas Allen		 Walton	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Rape of married white woman
1915	Unnamed Negro		   Clay	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Entered a young white girl’s bedroom

June 28

1877	Unnamed Negro #1 of 2 	  Yazoo	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Barn burning
1877	Unnamed Negro #2 of 2	  Yazoo	MS	Black	Male	Shot			Barn burning
1884	— Maipero	    St. Bernard	LA	Black-Creole	Male	Shot		Unreported
1890	George Howard	     Tangipahoa	LA	Black	Male	Shot			Wounding several white men; supporting black demands for higher wages for cotton picking
1892	Thomas Lillard		 Cannon	TN	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Rape of a married white woman
1897	Harry Gilliam		 Monroe	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Robbery and attempted criminal assault of a white woman
1901	Billie Magruder		Barbour	AL	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted to enter a white girl's room
1902	Ike Collins		  Aiken	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Fighting with white men
1902	Wyatt Holmes		  Aiken	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Fighting with white men
1914	Jennie Collins		Bolivar	MS	Black	Female	Unreported		Complicity in the murder of a white man
1919	Unnamed Negro Man	  Perry	MS	Black	Male	Unreported		Assault with intent to murder and discussing the lynching of a black man
1929	Mose Taylor		 Copiah	MS	Black	Male	Shot			Altercation with white man/men

June 29

1869	Unknown black man	Uintah	UT	Black	Male	Shot, Hanged		Because he “is a damned nigger”
1885	Benjamin Holt		 Hinds	MS	Black	Male	Unreported		Killing his wife
1891	Daniel Buck		  Clay	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Invaded white girl's "chamber"
1891	William Gates		  Clay	MS	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Attempted rape of a 16 year-old white girl
1892	Robert Donnelly		   Lee	AR	Black	Male	Hanged			Outraged a 12 year-old black girl
1892	Unnamed Negro		 Cross	AR	Black	Male	Unreported		Outraging a black girl
1896	Jake Williams		Madison	FL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Entering girl’s room
1905	Claude Elder		Oconee	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of white couple
1905	Gene Yerby		Oconee	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Burglary of white man’s home
1905	Lewis Robinson		Oconee	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of white couple
1905	Lon J. Aycock		Oconee	GA	White	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of white couple
1905	Richard Allen		Oconee	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of a black man
1905	Richard Robinson	Oconee	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of white couple
1905	Robert Harris		Oconee	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murderous assault on a black man
1905	Sandy Price		Oconee	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted assault of white woman
1909	Robert Jenkins		Emanuel	GA	Black	Male	Shot			Murder of a well-known white man and his wife
1912	Brooks Garden		Pickens	SC	Black	Male				Attempted assault on the wife of a “highly respectable” white farmer
1914	James Robinson		Tunica	MS	Black	Male	Unreported		Complicity in murder of a white man, a 21 year-old store clerk and member of a posse
1921	"Red" Bilbro		Madison	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Assaulting a white man, his employer
1928	James Bearden		Lincoln	MS	Black	Male	Shot			Wounding of two white men, brothers
1928	Stanley Bearden		Lincoln	MS	Black	Male	Dragged behind an automobile	Wounding of two white men, brothers
1929	Willie McDaniel	    Mecklenburg	NC	Black	Male	Hanged			Unknown

June 30

1885	Unnamed Negro		Sharkey	MS	Black	Male	Unreported		Rape and attempted murder of a black girl
1887	James Walden		Lincoln	LA	Black	Male	Hanged			Larceny
1894	Lewis Bankhead		Chilton	AL	Black	Male				Criminally assaulting a 12 year-old white girl and attempted criminal assault on another girl
1896	Unnamed Negro		Lincoln	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Rape of a married white woman
1903	Andrew Diggs		Jackson	AL	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted criminal assault on a 19 year-old unmarried white woman
1903	Reuben Elrod	       Anderson	SC	Black	Male	Shot			Protecting three women
1904	Cairo Williams	   Williamsburg	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of white man
1910	— Skiffer		Simpson	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Hiding a black man accused of assaulting a white man 

July 1

1886	George C. Parker	Hancock	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Criminal assault on a white woman
1888	Calvin Moody	       Lawrence	AL	Black	Male	Unreported		Murdered his wife
1901	Joseph Walton	      Brunswick	VA	Black	Male	Hanged			Criminal assault on the daughter of a white farmer
1903	Charles Evans	     Orangeburg	SC	Mulatto	Male	Hanged/RwB		Murder of a white planter, an old Confederate soldier
1904	John Jones	         Bartow	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Assaulted of a young married white woman
1916	Sam Meeks		Pickens	AL	Black	Male	Hanged			Murder of a white man
1922	James Harvey		Liberty	GA	Black	Male	Hanged			Criminal assault on a white woman
1922	Joseph Jordan		Liberty	GA	Black	Male	Hanged			Criminal assault on a white woman

July 2

1878	Sam Champion	     Livingston	KY	Black	Male	Hanged			Entered the bedroom of a 16 year-old white girl
1883	Martin Jones	      Issaquena	MS	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Murder of a married white woman
1885	John Boggan		  Anson	NC	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Criminal assault on a married white woman
1893	Unnamed Negro          Harrison MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Criminal assault on a white woman
1893	Unnamed Negro	       Harrison MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Criminal assault on a white woman
1901	Jim Bailey	       Johnston	NC	Black	Male	Hanged			Outraged a 14 year-old white girl
1901	Robert White	         Elmore	AL	Black	Male	Hanged			Shot at a white man during a quarrel
1903	John Osborne		  Union	NC	Black	Male	Hanged			Criminal assault of an aged married white woman
1909	Henry Isaac		 Brooks	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Caught in white girl’s bedroom, daughter of a prominent man
1910	Henry McKinney		Houston	AL	Black	Male	Drowned			Entered an unmarried white woman’s room
1912	William English		Manatee	FL	Black	Male	Hanged			Making insulting proposals to the daughter of a respected white citizen
1928	Shug McElwee		   Pike	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted assault on a white girl, daughter of a well-known farmer

July 3

1885	Calzar Carooth		 Marion	FL	Black	Male	Hanged			Arson of a white home and murdering an old black woman, her daughter, and two grandchildren
1891	Henry Gentry		 Warren	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Murder
1894	Frank B. Hood		  Amite	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Writing an insulting letter to a white man and the killing of another white man, son of a former sheriff
1897	Jim Thomas	      Jefferson	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Knowing who entered married white woman’s room
1898	Goode Gray	      Cleveland	AR	Black	Male	Hanged			Murder of a white man
1904	Burton Wade	        Bolivar	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Murder of a white man

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.
Top