White Man Lynched, Whitecaps, and an All-White Town – This Week in Historical Lynchings

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.

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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.

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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.

mincemeat

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.”

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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.

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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:

esquire

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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 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

December 12

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


December 13

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


December 14

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

December 15

		
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

December 16

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

December 17

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


December 18

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   [ + ]

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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