We will take a look at four different lynchings this week – all racially-motivated. This includes the lynching of a white man in an Oklahoma town that banned black people. Additionally, more Whitecaps come into play. In Georgia, a black man was murdered after having “troubles with some white men.” And in Tennessee, a young black man was lynched after a grand jury dropped charges against him.
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.
Two Negroes Shot to Death By Whitecaps
December 13, 1897
Our first story involves, yet again, the vigilante group known as the Whitecaps. Originally from Indiana, and not specifically a white supremacist outfit, upon their adoption in the South, they focused mostly upon terrorizing and lynching black people.
Birmingham, Ala., Dec. 14 – Near Kennedy, Lamar county, last night, Lewis and John Bonner, colored, were shot to death by a band of whitecaps.
Lewis Bonner was a government witness against a number of alleged moonshiners and was a witness in the state courts against several alleged whitecaps, who are charged with having recently killed another negro in that community who, it is claimed, had informed on illicit distillers and had failed to heed a warning for him to leave the country.
A notice written in red ink and bearing a skull and cross-bones, warning him to leave the state, was recently found by Lewis Bonner on his cabin door. He gave it no attention and another notice was served, which also went unheeded.
Last night Bonner’s brother, John, spent the night with him. This morning the corpses of both negroes were found upon the floor in the cabin, riddled with bullets.
It is supposed that the whitecaps intended to kill only Lewis, as there was nothing against John, but in order to prevent detection, murdered both men. The affair has created intense excitement among the negroes around Kennedy, many of whom are leaving the country.
This is the fourth negro that has met death in that section at the hands of these so called regulators recently. Several others who refused to be informers against illicit distillers have been taken from their homes by night, severely whipped and driven off.
Last night’s murders will, it is expected, cause vigorous investigations, both by the state and federal authorities. 2The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana;
Wed, Dec 15, 1897 – Page 6. Here.
Georgia Negro is Cut Almost to Mincemeat
December 16, 1921
Quitman, Ga., Dec. 22 – Riddled with bullets and cut almost to mincemeat while the saplings around had almost been cut down by the leaden missiles, the body of Lee Robinson, Jr., a negro, was found near a deserted cabin at Buckhead Farm. A coroner’s jury investigating rendered a verdict that the negro came to his death from unknown causes.
A few days ago, Robinson came to town and swore out peace warrants against O. Sapp and three brothers by the name of Holton, alleging that they had attacked his cabin.
Witnesses said that Sapp was attending a cane grinding and was shot by Robertson has he was stooping over a fire. The four white men were vindicated. Yesterday the negro’s dead body was found. 3The Gastonia Gazette; Gastonia, North Carolina; Thu, Dec 22, 1921 – Page 1. Here.
Other papers claim that Robinson “had been having trouble with some white men.”
Youth Freed By Grand Jury Dies At Hands of Mob
December 15, 1933
All throughout the era of mass racial lynchings, black people accused of committing certain crimes were often moved from jail to jail in an attempt to keep the lynch mobs one step behind. Such was our next case. The eventual victim was moved at least twice, and was actually able to face a grand jury. The mob, however, was patient.
Columbia, Tenn., Dec. 15 – The body of Cord Cheek, 20 year old negro whom the grand jury had refused to indict after his arrest for an attempted attack on an 11-year-old girl, was found hanging from the limb of a cedar tree near here tonight.
Sheriff Claude Godwin said the lynching was “handled in a very quiet manner” and that “no one knew anything about it.”
The sheriff said he received an anonymous telephone call that he could find a “dead negro at the forks of the road” in the Glendale section of the county and to “come and get him.”
When Sheriff Godwin arrived the negro apparently had been dead only a short time, the officer said, but there was no trace of those responsible for his death.
The alleged attempted attack on the child occurred in the Glendale section about a month ago. Cheek was arrested and taken first to Pulaski and then to Nashville for safe keeping.
But, the Maury grand jury Wednesday refused to return an indictment, Sheriff Godwin said, and orders were sent to Nashville to release Cheek.
The first that officers knew that the negro had returned was when his body was found hanging from a limb by a rope.
Sheriff Godwin said he had been unable to trace the telephone call that notified him of the lynching. 4The Morning Herald; Uniontown, Pennsylvania; Sat, Dec 16, 1933 – Page 1. Here.
Murdered for Defending Negro in ‘All White’ Town
December 17, 1923
Sundown towns were rare in the South, as were lynchings of white people. In our final case this week, we see both. Robert Journigan, the “negro” that the white man was defending, was also lynched – though his fate was not yet known at the time of this article.
Marlow, Ok., Dec 18 – Marlow’s unwritten law, exemplified by prominent public signs bearing the command: “Negro, don’t let the sun go down on your here,” caused the death last night of A. W. Birch, hotel owner, and the wounding of the first negro who has stayed here more than a day in years.
They were victims of a crowd of more than 15 men who went to the hotel where the negro had been employed three days ago as a porter and shot them down when Birch attempted to persuade them to desist from their threat to lynch the negro.
Marlow, one of several towns in Oklahoma which has not allowed negroes to settle in their vicinity, for years has abided by the custom permitting no member of the race to remain here after nightfall.
Last Saturday, Birch brought Robert Journigan, the negro, here to serve as a porter in his hotel. A few hours later he received an anonymous communication ordering him to dismiss the porter as once and drive him from the city. Birch ignored the letter.
The crowd went to the hotel early last evening, its members calling loudly for the negro and announcing their intention of hanging him on the spot.
The hotel proprietor, with Jernigan at his side, hurried to the lobby to intercede, but was shot dead before he could speak. The negro also fell critically wounded. Their assailants then fled. The negro died early today.
Mrs. Birch, who witnessed the shooting, said she thought she recognized the man who killed her husband, but authorities early today said they had no clues as to the identity of members of the mob. They were not masked.
Search for Marvin Kincannon, 20, son of a well known family here, and a party of young men who are alleged to have left the city last night in a motorcar, was started today. Paul Sullivan, County Attorney, said that Kincannon was wanted for questioning in connection with the shooting.
Investigation today disclosed that several men attempted to drive Journegan from the city last Friday, but were vanquished by the negro’s razor. 5St. Louis Post-Dispatch; St. Louis, Missouri; Tue, Dec 18, 1923 – Page 1. Here.
During the Jim Crow era, black people carrying straight razors had become a trope. Note the 1941 cartoon from Esquire magazine:
Over Sixty Lynchings This Week
What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between December 12 and December 18, 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. 6For 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
1880 Garnett Thompson West Feliciana LA Black Male Riddled with bullets Insulted and wounding a young white man 1887 George Green Marion FL Black Male Hanged Theft of cattle 1891 Unnamed Negro Warren GA Black Male Shot Burglary 1899 Unnamed Negro Morehouse LA Black Male Hanged Criminal assault on a white woman
1878 Richard Lewis Calhoun GA Black Male Hanged Unreported 1891 Joe Patterson Bossier LA Black Male Shot Murdering his wife, a black man, a white man, and shooting another white man 1891 John R. Ely, Jr. Jackson FL Black Male Shot Entered white girl's room 1894 Edward Sullivan Anderson SC Black Male Riddled with bullets Ax murder of 12 year-old white boy 1897 James Thomas Iberville LA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a store keeper 1897 John Bonner Lamar AL Black Male Shot Testifying against whitecaps 1897 Louis Bonner Lamar AL Black Male Shot Testifying against whitecaps 1913 Henry White Alachua FL Black Male Riddled with bullets Found under white girl’s bed
1878 Unnamed Negro #1 of 3 Columbia FL Black Male Shot Theft and beating a white woman 1878 Unnamed Negro #2 of 3 Columbia FL Black Male Shot Theft and beating a white woman 1878 Unnamed Negro #3 of 3 Columbia FL Black Male Shot Theft and beating a white woman 1889 Unknown #1 White Rock TX White Male Hanged Burglary 1889 Unknown #2 White Rock TX White Male Hanged Burglary 1892 Jesse E. Reed Gibson TN Black Male Hanged Attempted murder of a white man, a railroad brakeman 1897 Charles Alexander Iberville LA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a store keeper 1897 Joseph Alexander Iberville LA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a store keeper 1917 Wade Hamilton Sweetwater Co. WY Black Male Hanged, Shot Attempted rape
1877 Henry “Boot” Alexander Rutherford TN Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Murder of a white man 1892 Unnamed Negro Davidson TN Black Male Hanged Rape of 18 year-old white girl 1893 Henry G. Givens Hopkins KY Black Male Riddled with bullets Poisoning stock and threatening to poison a school well 1894 William Jones Marion FL Black Male Hanging Assaulted a 15 year-old white girl 1904 Buck Steward Autauga AL Black Male Shot Murder of a white man 1907 Patrick Husband Harrison MS Black Male Shot Criminally assaulting two young white girls, daughters of a well-known planter 1910 Will Atwater Pike GA Black Male Shot Unknown 1913 Ernest Williams Caddo LA Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a white man, a former convict but now a prominent merchant 1913 Frank Williams Caddo LA Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a white man, a former convict but now a prominent merchant 1917 Claxton Dekle Candler GA Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a prosperous white farmer and wounding of two other whites 1919 E.D. Whitfield Chapmanville WV Black Male Shot Murder of a white man 1919 Earl Whitney Chapmanville WV Black Male Shot Murder of a white man 1924 Samuel Smith Williamson TN Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Killed white grocer 1933 Cord Cheek Maury TN Black Male Shot Refusing to say “Mister” to a white boy; or accused of raping a white woman; or attacking an 11 year-old white girl
1885 Thomas Robinson Putnam TN Black Male Beaten with sticks Raped a married white woman three times and then choked her to death 1897 Thomas Waller Simpson MS Black Male Hanged Murdering a married white woman and her four children, family of a farmer 1900 Bud Rowland Rockport IN Black Male Hanged Murder 1900 Jim Henderson Rockport IN Black Male Hanged, Shot Murder 1914 Allen Seymour Hampton SC Black Male Riddled with bullets Assault on a white girl 1918 Charles Lewis Fulton KY Black Male Hanged Assaulting a white man, a deputy sheriff, robbery 1921 Lee Robinson Jr. Brooks GA Black Male Riddled with bullets Charged four white men with an assault 1925 Grant Cole Montgomery AL Black Male Riddled with bullets Insulting (cursing) a married white woman; improper remarks to a married white woman
1882 Richmond Roberts Burke GA Black Male Shot Attempted rape of an unmarried white woman 1885 Samuel Wilson Jones MS Black Male Hanged Murdered a black woman and her two children 1887 John Porter Brooks GA Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Attempted rape of a married white woman, wife of a planter 1888 Unnamed Negro Claiborne TN Black Male Hanged Killing a white man 1891 Unnamed Negro Lauderdale MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Assaulted a married white woman 1891 Alfred Jones Suwannee FL Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Robbery and murder of a white man 1891 Brady Young Suwannee FL Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Robbery and murder of a white mann 1893 Will Furgerson Berrien GA Black Male Strangled Informing on illegal activities of other Negroes. Killed to keep him frp, testifying. 1900 John Rolla Boonville IN Black Male Hanged Murder 1912 Joe Beeman Hinds MS Black Male Shot Wounding a white police officer 1923 Robert Jerrigan Marlow OK Black Male Shot Remaining in a town where no negroes were allowed 1923 A.W. Birch Marlow OK White Male Shot Attempting to save Jerrigan from being lynched
1878 Lott Clarke Caddo LA Black Male Hanged Planning on testifying to a U. S. Grand Jury about election irregularities 1896 George Finley Graves KY Black Male Shot Attacking a white man 1900 John Wilson Issaquena MS Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a boatman, his wife and child 1900 Lee Manning Issaquena MS Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a boatman, his wife and child 1903 Joe Drake Lauderdale TN Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Murder of a prominent young white man 1914 William Jones Lowndes AL Black Male Hanged and riddled with bullets Attempted criminal assault on a young unmarried white girl 1918 Willie Robin Jackson AR Black Male Hanged Murder of a white night watchman and wounding of the white chief of police
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 Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana;|
Wed, Dec 15, 1897 – Page 6. Here.
|3.||⇡||The Gastonia Gazette; Gastonia, North Carolina; Thu, Dec 22, 1921 – Page 1. Here.|
|4.||⇡||The Morning Herald; Uniontown, Pennsylvania; Sat, Dec 16, 1933 – Page 1. Here.|
|5.||⇡||St. Louis Post-Dispatch; St. Louis, Missouri; Tue, Dec 18, 1923 – Page 1. Here.|
|6.||⇡||For more information on all of this, please see our post here.|