Black women lynched in America.
Say the words, and you are met with either blank stares, shakes of the head, or outright disbelief.
But, as little known to people as it is, over 200 Black women and girls were lynched in America, of the known Black women who were lynched.
I originally posted on the lynching of Black women in America here.
The following newspaper articles are actual accounts written at the time of each woman’s lynching. The articles attest to the horror and cruelty of America’s racial nadir from 1890 all the way through the 1960s.
Racial hatred that included the vicious murder of many Black women and girls.
CHICAGO RECORD HERALD
WOMAN PLEADING INNOCENCE LYNCHED AS CHILD POISONER
July 27, 1903
Shreveport, La., — Jennie Steers, a negro woman, who, it was charged, gave 16 year old Elizabeth Dolan a glass of lemonade, causing her death, was lynched on the Beard plantation near here last night. The mob took her to a tree, placed a rope around her neck and demanded a confession. The woman refused and was hanged.
NEW YORK PRESS/VICKSBURG (MISSISSIPPI) EVENING POST
LYNCHED NEGRO AND WIFE MUTILATED AND BURNED
February 8, 1904
Doddsville, Miss., Feb. 7 — Luther Holbert and his wife, negroes, were burned at the stake here to-day by a mob of more than 1,000 persons for the killing of James Eastland, a prominent white planter, and John Carr, a negro, on Wednesday, at the Eastland plantation, two miles from this city.
The burning of Holbert and his wife closes a tragedy which has cost eight lives, has engaged 200 men and two packs of bloodhounds in a four days’ chase across four Counties, and has stirred this section of Mississippi almost to a frenzy.
Following are the dead: James Eastland, white, planter, killed by Holbert; John Carr, a negro, killed by Holt; John Winters, negro, killed by Eastland, three unknown negroes, killed by posses. The killing of Eastland, Carr and Winters occurred Wednesday at Eastland’s plantation. Holbert and Winters were in Carr’s cabin when Eastland entered and ordered Holbert to leave the plantation. A difficulty ensued, in which it is alleged that Holbert opened fire on Eastland, fatally wounding him and killing Carr. Eastland returned the fire and killed Winters.
When news of the tragedy reached Doddsville a posse was formed and left immediately for Eastland’s plantation. Arriving there further shooting occurred, and an unknown negro was killed. Holbert and his wife had fled. Posses were formed at Greenville, Ittaben, Cleveland and other points and the pursuit of Holbert and his wife was begun with horses and bloodhounds. The chase, which was begun Wednesday morning, was continued until last night, when Holbert and his wife, worn out from traveling over 100 miles on foot through canebrakes and swamps, were found asleep in a heavy belt of timber three miles east of Sheppardstown and captured. The two negroes were brought to Doddsville and this afternoon were burned at the stake by a large mob in the shadow of the negro church here.
An eyewitness to the lynching of Luther Holbert and his wife, …..today gave the Evening Post the following details concerning retribution extracted from the couple prior to their cremation yesterday:
“When the two Negroes were captured, they were tied to trees and while the funeral pyres were being prepared, they were forced to hold out their hands while one finger at a time was chopped off. The fingers were distributed as souvenirs. The ears of the murderers were cut off. Holbert was beaten severely, his skull was fractured and one of his eyes, knocked out with a stick, hung by a shred from the socket.
“Some of the mob used a large corkscrew to bore into the flesh of the man and woman. It was applied to their arms, legs and body, then pulled out, the spirals tearing out big pieces of raw, quivering flesh every time it was withdrawn.”
The dead couple leave a young son.
NEGRO WOMAN AND THREE NEGRO MEN LYNCHED
January 23, 1912
Hamilton, Ga., Jan. 23—A mob of 100 men tonight broke into the Harris County jail, overpowered Jailor E. M. Robinson and took four negroes, three men and one woman out and hung them to trees one mile from town. They then riddled the bodies with bullets. It is estimated that 300 shots were fired.
Last Sunday, while Norman Hadley, a well-to-do young married farmer, was sitting in his home, a shot was fired through the window and he fell dead.
That afternoon four negro tenants, Belle Hathaway, John Moore, Eugene Hamming and “Dusty” Cruthfield, were arrested, charged with the crime.
Sheriff Hadley, who is an uncle of the dead man, feared no lynching and tonight he is in Columbus. Public sentiment, however, had been crystallizing here all day to day and by nightfall there were a great many country people in Hamilton.
Their number was constantly augmented and by 9 o’clock fully 100 men had congregated in front of the court house in which the jail is located. Despite the pleas of Jailer Robinson they advanced on the calaboose and, throwing him to one side, broke the doors down. The terrified negroes were hustled out at the point of guns and marched outside the town. There they were quickly strung up.
Immediately their writhing bodies became silhouetted against the sky, revolvers and rifles blazed forth and fully 300 shots were fired before the mob dispersed. The negroes protested their innocence to the last, but the mob would have none of it.
NEGRO MOTHER AND CHILD KILLED
March 13, 1913
Henderson, N. C., Mar. 12 —Two negroes, a woman and a child, were killed and two negro men probably fatally wounded early today when unidentified persons after pouring kerosene on the home of Joe Perry, a negro living ten miles from this place, set it on fire, and poured a fusillade of bullets into the blazing structure as its occupants attempted to escape. The dead are Joe Perry’s wife and her child and the wounded Joe Perry and his brother John. There are no clues. Sheriff Royster has gone to the scene.
SOURCE: All of the above, cited from One Hundred Years of Lynching, by Ralph Ginzburg
INVESTIGATION BY THE NAACP
MAGGIE HOWZE AND ALMA HOWZE
On Friday night, December 20, 1918, four Negroes, Andrew Clark, age 15; Major Clark, age 20; Maggie Howze, age 20; and Alma Howze, age 16, were taken from the little jail at Shutuba and lynched on a bridge over the Chickasaw River. They were suspected of having murdered a Dr. E. L. Johnston, a dentist.
An investigation disclosed the following facts: That Dr. Johnston was living in illicit relations with Maggie Howze and Alma Howze. That Major Clark, a youth working on Johnston’s plantation wished to marry Maggie. That Dr. Johnston went to Clark and told him to leave his woman alone. That this led to a quarrel, made the more bitter when it was found that Maggie was to have a child by Dr. Johnston and that the younger sister was also pregnant, said to be by Dr. Johnston.
Shortly after this Johnston was mysteriously murdered. There were two theories as to his death:
-one, that he was killed by Clark; the other that he was killed by a white man who had accused him of seducing a white woman.
It was generally admitted that Johnston was a loose character.
Alma Howze was so near to motherhood when lynched that it was said by an eyewitness at her burial on the second day following, that the movements of her unborn child could be detected.
NAACP, 30 Years of Lynching in the United States (New York: NAACP, 1919)
SOURCE: Black Women in White America, by Gerda Lerner
One of the most heinous and sadistic lynchings was that of Mary Turner:
TAUGHT A LESSON
“In May, 1918, a white plantation owner in Brooks County, Georgia, got into a quarrel with one of his colored tenants and the tenant killed him. A mob sought to avenge his death but could not find the suspected man. They therefore lynched another colored man named Hayes Turner. His wife, Mary Turner, threatened to have members of the mob arrested. The mob therefore started after her. She fled from home and was found there the next morning. She was in the eighth month of pregnancy but the mob of several hundred took her to a small stream, tied her ankles together and hung her on a tree head downwards. Gasoline was thrown on her clothes and she was set on fire. One of the members of the mob took a knife and split her abdomen open so that the unborn child fell from her womb to the ground and the child’s head was crushed under the heel of another member of the mob; Mary Turner’s body was finally riddled with bullets.”
SOURCE: One Hundred Years of Lynching, by Ralph Ginzburg
There are many more whose lives were taken from them by the lynch mob, based on the “charges” levied against them to enable the mob to carry out its unjust extralegal vengeance:
-Cordella Stevenson (for being a Black woman)
-Laura Nelson (murder)
-Rosa Richardson (murder)
-Marie Scott (murder)
-Ballie Crutchfield (theft)
-Meta Hicks (husband accused of murder)
-Sarah Cabiness: lynched along with her four children (threatening a white man)
Of the above, only the lynching of Laura Nelson and her son, Lawrence, are there photos that document the lynching of a Black family:
THE FINAL SOLUTION
Oklahoma, 1911. At Okemah, Oklahoma, Laura Nelson, a colored woman, accused of murdering a deputy sheriff who had discovered stolen goods in her house, was lynched together with her son, a boy of about fifteen. The woman and her son were taken from the jail, dragged about six miles to the Canadian River, and hanged from a bridge. The woman was raped by members of the mob before she was hanged.”
SOURCE: Black Women in White America, by Gerda Lerna
Laura Nelson. (The barefoot corpse of Laura Nelson. May 25, 1911, Okemah, Oklahoma. Gelatin silver print. Real photo postcard. 3 1/2 x 5 1/2″ Etched in the negative:”copyright-1911-g.h.farnum, okemah. okla 2898.” Stamp on reverse, “unmailable.” Photographer: George H. Farnum, 1911.
This is the only known photo of a lynched black woman. Laura was murdered with her 14-year-old son Lawrence, after he was castrated by members of the mob, in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1911. She was raped by members of the mob, before she and her child were brutally murdered.
Etched in the negative: “1911 copy right, g.h. farnum, okemah. okla\ 2897.”
The history of the lynching of Black women is unknown to many people.
Revealing a light on this most hateful history of America chips away at the veneer of a nation’s hypocrisy in its venomous mistreatment of its most defenseless citizens.
A time when life for Black Americans was a life without sanctuary.