This week, we’ll look at six lynchings through the South and Midwest. One victim confessed to a crime only after being promised a fair trial. Another was lynched simply for being the brother of a man accused of murder. Two were drowned (and two whipped) for “insulting” a white woman. In many cases, the press held the victims responsible for their own lynchings.
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.
Lynching Victim Confessed With Promise of Fair Trail – Killed Anyway
November 21, 1881
Lynchings were rare in Ohio, but they happened from time to time. In this case, a “mulatto” man was accused of assaulting a widow. He was arrested and held in jail when a white mob held the Deputy Sheriff and Town Marshal hostage while the rest of their number laid siege to the jail, ultimately kidnapping and murdering the accused – who only confessed to the crime when the mob promised to let him go back to jail.
Athens, Oh. Nov. 21 – Christopher W. Davis, a mulatto, was lynched at Athens, Ohio, on the night of November 21. The circumstances leading to this summary vengeance are as follows:
Mrs. Lucinda Luckey, a widow lady aged fifty-nine years, lives alone near Albany, in Athens County. On the evening of October 31, last, Davis called at her house and asked permission to stop over night. She refused him. He went away, but returned again at two o’clock in the morning, and finding her doors securely locked, forced an entrance by battering the door in. Once insdie, he assaulted the helpless old woman and fiendishly outraged her. Fearing that she would cause his arrest, to complete his work and cover his crime, he beat her about the head with an ax, fracturing her skull and leaving her for dead.
She recovered consciousness by morning and managed to crawl to the house o fa neighbor, to whom she told the horrible story. Davis was captured and lodged in the Athens jail, but threats of lynching him were so loud that for safety he was removed to Chillicothe.
Subsequently, when it was felt that the indignation had partially subsided, he was returned to Athens to be arraigned before the Grand Jury. No outward manifestation was made by the citizens of Albany, and no thought of violence was entertained by the Athens authorities.
One the night of November 21, however, a number of masked men hailing from Albany rode into Athens, and after stationing guards at the residences of the Deputy Sheriff and the Town Marshal, marched on to the jail.
Three of them applied to Sheriff Warden for admission, one of the number assuming the role of a captured horse-thief, and the Sheriff, in his ignorance, opened the door.
No sooner was the door opened than these three determined men downed the unsuspecting jailer and secured him. However, they failed to find any keys on hi, and getting a sledge hammer, they proceeded to break the lock of the cell in which Davis was confined.
Only a few moments was occupied in this and with a rope thrown about the culprit’s neck, he was led trembling from the jail. Every avenue of approach to the jail had been well guarded, so as to prevent any outside interference that might be attempted, but the work was so quietly and quickly done that no trouble was encountered.
Davis was led a distance of four blocks, to the bridge of the Hocking Valley River, and while one end of the rope was being tied to the bridge and others were engaged pinioning his arms and legs, he was commanded to confess his guilt.
He begged for his life, and asked them if they would spare him if he confessed. He was told that if he confessed he would be returned to the jail and given a fair trial. He then confessed the horrible crime.
Immediately a shout went up, “Hang the dog! Hang him!” “We give you three minutes to say your prayers,” said the leader, but the frightened fellow did not try to pray.
At the end of the three minutes he was pitched headlong from the bridge, falling a distance of nine feet, the fall breaking his neck. The mob then dispersed. A number of them were recognized, and it is stated that arrests will follow. 2The Eaton Democrat; Eaton, Ohio; Thu, Dec 1, 1881 – Page 1. Here and here.
A week later, this small article ran in the press:
Women Approve of Lynch Law
The lynching of Christopher Davis at Athens on the night of the 21st ultimo was discussed at an earnest, well-attended meeting of the ladies of Albany [Ohio] Tuesday evening. As an evidence of the feeling entertained by them, here is one of the resolutions passed:
“Resolved, That we pledge ourselves to oppose the prosecution of any one who was engaged in the hanging of Davis.” 3The Times; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Mon, Dec 5, 1881 – Page 2. Here.
No arrests seem to ever have been made.
Lynched for Robbery
November 26, 1884
It’s interesting to note that the press blamed the lynching victim for his own lynching. This was normal for the time.
Lynch Law in Anne Arundel
A Colored Desperado Meets the Fate He Deserved
Annapolis, Nov. 28 – Confirmation of the report of the lynching of George Briscoe, colored, reached here today in the shape of the verdict of a coroner’s jury. Justice Thomas S. Jacobs and Thomas Boon held an inquest, and the jury found that Briscoe “came to his death by strangulation at the hands of parties unknown.”
The scene of the lynching was on the public road south of Magothy river and about fifteen miles form Annapolis. Brisco was in charge of Constable Granon Boone, and Tip Wells, whom Boone had deputized to arrest him.
Brisco and two officers started for Annapolis in a buggy, and shortly after they h ad crossed Magothy river a party of twelves masked men surrounded the buggy and dragged Wells out, handling him quite roughly. Boone was run down a hill at the muzzle of a cocked double-barrel gun.
The maskers then hanged Briscoe. How he behaved is not known, as no one but they lynchers were present. The hanging occurred between 7 and 7:30p.m. on Wednesday.
Brisco’s body was cut down and buries yesterday. There seems to be little doubt that Briscoe was the perpetrator of many outrages heretofore reported, and he was evidently a very bad character. He had served a term in the penitentiary for house-breaking, and it is said that the entire community breathe freer now that he is dead.
Mrs. William Phelps at whom the party who broke into her house recently (supposed to be Briscoe) fired a pistol, is reported to be in a critical condition and to have lost her reason. She was enciente. This no doubt incensed the community, and together with the defiant conduct of Briscoe before the magistrate, led to his lynching.
Captain John Mills, of the steamer Gazelle, who first reported the affair in this city, said this morning that the citizens in the neighborhood of the locality where the hanging took place are very reticent about the affair and refuse to converse on the subject.
The numerous robberies of Briscoe had alarmed the county to such an extent that the farmers around were afraid to leave their homes and were constantly in dread of being robbed. 4The Weekly News; Frederick, Maryland; Thu, Dec 4, 1884 – Page 7. Here.
Two Lynched, Two Whipped in Georgia
November 27, 1888
Again notice how the press blamed the lynching victims – all the while calling it a “terrible tragedy.” Also note that two other black citizens were whipped.
A Tragedy Caused by Negroes’ Misdeeds
Atlanta, Dec. 1 – A terrible tragedy is reported form Wilkes county, which took place on the Broad river and near the Lincoln county line, in which two negro men, Tom Smith and John Coleman, were thrown into the river, with rocks tied about them. At the same time a colored woman named Huldah Smith was badly whipped. Jim Smith was also lashed almost to death.
The trouble originated on Thursday of last week by the negroes insulting Mrs. Jane Brainlett during the absence of her husband. When officers sought to arrest them they resisted by firing upon them. A band of 300 men was organized, armed and visited the community. A well connected young white man was suspected of having incited the negroes, and he had to flee the country to escape the vengeance of the mob.
The two black men who were thrown into the river alive were taken from Henry J. Hill’s stockade, where they had been confined for safety. Their bodies have not been found and no effort has been made to recover them.
A demand for protection by the whites ha been made on Gov. Gordon. The negroes are fearfully aroused and threaten open insurrection. They have armed themselves and say they will not submit to the dictation of the whites any longer. 5The Times-Democrat; New Orleans, Louisiana; Sun, Dec 2, 1888 – Page 6. Here.
Faulty Pistols in Mississippi
November 22, 1891
They Will Go Off Accidentally and Kill Negroes
Kosciusko, Miss., Nov. 23 – For the last few days trouble has existed among the races of Attala county. A crowd of whites went to the house of Dan Gladney, colored, shot him and severely whipped several other negroes.
George Pickle, a white man, was arrested as one of the leaders and officers are in pursuit of others. While Deputy Sheriff Smythe, Jr., was guarding the shanty of Dan Gladney, his pistol was accidentally discharged while examining it.
The bullet struck and instantly killed a negro named Kennedy. The origin of the trouble is not known. 6The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette; Fort Wayne, Indiana;
Tue, Nov 24, 1891 – Page 2. Here.
White Caps Kill Negro
November 25, 1906
Reign of Terror in Louisiana Town Where Band is in Control
Lafayette, La., Nov. 25 – One hundred whitecaps, masked, and armed with shotguns and pistols, created a reign of terror last night at Carenore, near here, brutally murdering Antone Domingue, a peaceable negro, after robbing the man of his horse and buggy.
They also held up a score of other negroes. The town was at the mercy of the band throughout the night.
Domingue was stopped in the road while going home, and on resisting the whitecaps, was beaten. He deserted his team to go home and secure a revolver. On his return he was met with a volley from the whitecaps. 7The Washington Herald; Washington, District of Columbia; Mon, Nov 26, 1906 – Page 1. Here.
The Whitecaps not only targeted black citizens, but any citizen they felt did not fit the perfection of how white people should behave. Take for example the woman they lynched in South Carolina in 1901. She had been accused of adultery. More here.
Brother of Hunted Man is Killed
November 24, 1920
Finally, we have a very short article about the lynching of a brother of an accused murderer.
Dewitt, Ga., Nov. 24 – The body of Curley McKelvey, a negro brother of the man who shot and killed a white man yesterday, was found hanging from a tree. The body was riddled with bullets and is believed to have been shot by a posse who are looking for his brother. 8The Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times; Deadwood, South Dakota; Thu, Nov 25, 1920 – Page 1. Here.
Over Seventy Lynchings This Week
What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between November 21 and November 27, 1877-1950. 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. 9For 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 understandably inadequate.
Year Victim City State Race Sex Form Alleged Offense
1878 George Williams Oldham KY Black Male Hanged Outrageous assault on a 8 year-old white child 1881 Christopher C. Davis Athens OH Black Male Hanged Assault 1895 Unknown Negro Madison TX Black Male Unknown Mistaken Identity 1895 Charles L. Hurd Morgan TN Black Male Hanged Murder of a young white man 1899 Wesley Lawrence Escambia FL Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Criminal assault on a married white woman 1903 Jim Nelson Chesterfield SC Black Male Hanged Attempted criminal assault on a 7 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent farmer 1913 “General” Boyd Walton GA Black Male Unreported Entered white girl’s bedroom 1938 Wilder McGowan Stone MS Black Male Hanged Robbery and attacking a 74 year-old white woman
1884 Armstead Williams Madison FL Black Male Riddled with bullets Attempted outrage on a white widow and her daughter 1888 Jack Jones Roane TN Black Male Unreported Attempted criminal assault on a white married woman and a white unmarried woman._x000B_ 1888 Jerry Taylor St. Helena LA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Criminal assault on a 13 year-old white girl 1891 Daniel Gladney Attala MS Black Male Shot Race prejudice 1891 William Black Moscow TX Black Male Hanged “Insulting ladies” 1894 Dick Wofford Spartanburg SC Black Male Hanged Ravished a white girl 1898 Edward Merriwither Jasper GA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Murder of 18 year-old white man 1905 David Sims Coahoma MS Black Male Hanged Killing a white man, a plantation manager 1910 Robert Matthews Escambia FL Black Male Hanged Attempted criminal assault of a white woman 1912 Will Thomas Newberry SC Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a white farmer 1917 Unidentified Negro Welch WV Black Male Shot Attacking white woman
1886 John Davis Bibb AL Black Male Unreported Raped a white woman 1887 John H. Biggus Frederick MD Black Male Hanged, Shot Assault of a white woman 1889 Robert Bland Prince George VA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Attempted criminal assault on a 16 year-old white girl, daughter of a federal government official 1895 Jack Yarbrough Copiah MS Black Male Hanged Murder of a white woman 1895 Unnamed Negro Marshall KY Black Male Riddled with bullets Train wrecking 1908 Jim Gilmore Hampton SC Black Male Unreported Attempted criminal assault on a white girl, the daughter of his employer, a respectable farmer 1909 Ray Rolston Cleburne AL Black Male Riddled with bullets Repeated criminal assault on a married white woman, a farmer’s wife 1920 Harry Jacobs Walthall MS Black Male Dragged behind automobile Criminal assault on a white woman, wife of a farmer 1921 Robert Hicks Chicot AR Black Male Riddled with bullets Writing a note to young white woman 1944 James T. Scales Bledsoe TN Black Male Shot Murdering two married white women, a 19 year-old woman and her mother, who was the wife of the Superintendent of the State Training and Agricultural School for Negro Boys
1881 Mark Thompson Terrell GA Black Male Beaten Attempted robbery of a white man 1883 Lewis Houston Jefferson AL Black Male Hanged Attempted outrage on white “lady” 1892 Nathan White York SC Black Male Shot Set fire to a barn 1901 John Laddison Anderson SC Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Wounding of a 20 year-old married white woman 1901 Frank Thomas Bossier LA Black Male Unreported Murder of 14 year-old black boy over a debt of 20¢ 1902 Joseph Lamb West Feliciana LA Black Male Hanged Attempted robbery and criminal assault on a young white girl 1908 Edward Stineback Lake TN Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Murder of a white deputy 1908 Jim Stineback Lake TN Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Murder of a white deputy 1908 Marshall Stineback Lake TN Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Murder of a white deputy 1914 Dillard Wilson Sumter SC Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a married white woman, wife of a farmer 1918 Charles Thompson Culpeper VA Mulatto Male Hanged Attacking a married white woman 1920 Curley McKelvey Mitchell GA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Brother of the alleged murderer of a white farm overseer 1940 Eddie Garrett Tangipahoa LA Black Male Riddled with buckshot Attempted robbery and murder of a 54 year-old white-Hungarian farmer
1879 Henry Walker Houston GA Black Male Hanged Burglary 1885 Alexander Etheridge Hancock GA Black Male Unreported Burglaries in Linton, Hancock Co. 1886 Unnamed Negro #1 Franklin MS Black Male Unreported Theft and arson of a cotton gin 1886 Unnamed Negro #2 Franklin MS Black Male Unreported Theft and arson of a cotton gin 1886 Unnamed Negro #3 Franklin MS Black Male Unreported Theft and arson of a cotton gin 1897 Hicks Price Bradford FL Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Rape of a white woman 1897 Henry Abrams Montgomery AL Black Male Shot Incest with his two daughters, age sixteen and eighteen. 1906 Antone Domingue Lafayette LA Black Male Shot Race hatred 1909 Morgan Chambers Lauderdale MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Assault and robbery of an aged white man 1910 Richard Lowe Lafayette FL Black Male Entered girl's room and fell asleep on her bed while drunk 1910 Flute Clarke Lexington SC Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Attempted rape and murder of 14 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent farmer 1914 Frederick Sullivan Marshall MS Black Male Hanged Barn burning and destruction of livestock 1914 Jane Sullivan Marshall MS Black Female Hanged Barn burning and destruction of livestock
1884 George Briscoe Magothy MD Black Male Shot, Hanged, Strangled Robbery 1887 William Williams Orange FL Black Male Murder of a black man 1896 Alfred Daniels Alachua FL Black Male Hanged Arson 1898 Unnamed Negro #1 Lauderdale MS Black Male Unreported Altercation with a white man 1898 Unnamed Negro #2 Lauderdale MS Black Male Unreported Altercation with a white man 1898 Unnamed Negro #3 Lauderdale MS Black Male Unreported Altercation with a white man 1905 Monroe Williams Tangipahoa LA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Criminal assault on a 70 year-old married white woman 1921 Henry Cade Sour Lake TX Black Male Hanged Attack on an 8 year old white girl
1877 Frank McGhee Maury TN Black Male Hanged Attempted outrage on the young, unmarried daughter of a Presbyterian pastor 1888 John Coleman Wilkes GA Black Male Drowned Insurrection 1888 Tom Smith Wilkes GA Black Male Drowned Insurrection 1891 John Maxey Sabine LA Black Male Hanged Criminal assault upon a 13 year-old white girl 1898 Unnamed Negro Lake TN Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder and robbery of a white man 1898 Unnamed Negro #1 New Madrid MO Black Male Unknown Murder of a white man 1900 Spencer Williams Columbia FL Black Male Riddled with bullets—shot to pieces Shooting two white men, one was the city marshal and the other was a businessman 1909 Simmie Thomas Caddo LA Black Male Hanged Attempted criminal assault on a 7 year-old white girl 1925 Arthur Henry Orange FL Black Male Unreported Shot and wounded two police detectives
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.||⇡||The Eaton Democrat; Eaton, Ohio; Thu, Dec 1, 1881 – Page 1. Here and here.|
|3.||⇡||The Times; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Mon, Dec 5, 1881 – Page 2. Here.|
|4.||⇡||The Weekly News; Frederick, Maryland; Thu, Dec 4, 1884 – Page 7. Here.|
|5.||⇡||The Times-Democrat; New Orleans, Louisiana; Sun, Dec 2, 1888 – Page 6. Here.|
|6.||⇡||The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette; Fort Wayne, Indiana;|
Tue, Nov 24, 1891 – Page 2. Here.
|7.||⇡||The Washington Herald; Washington, District of Columbia; Mon, Nov 26, 1906 – Page 1. Here.|
|8.||⇡||The Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times; Deadwood, South Dakota; Thu, Nov 25, 1920 – Page 1. Here.|
|9.||⇡||For more information on all of this, please see our post here.|