Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop. (1)
When people think of the savage act of the lynching of black people, many people think of black men:
-1930 lynchings of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana
-1913 lynching of William Brown in Douglas County, Nebraska
-1935 lynching of Rubin Stacy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
-1936 lynching of Lint Shaw in Royston, Georgia
And that is just a few names.
But, often left out of this list of names are those of black women who were brutally tortured, and raped, before they were lynched:
-Maggie and Alma Howze
-Mae Murray Dorsey
That black women have been left out of the history of lynching comes as no surprise. Black women’s voices and history has never been accorded the same respect and validation as the history of black men. Black women’s history is only just now coming into the light, especially in the realm of lynching. It was the valiant efforts of black women, most notably the great Ida B. Wells- Barnett…………….
……………………and the black women organization known as the Anti-Lynching Crusaders, headed by Mary Talbert, who fought so hard to eradicate this brutally barbaric crime that this country perpetuated against its defenseless black citizens. Ida’s contribution was crucial: she spoke out at a time when few people challenged the horror and injustice of the lynch law, and her research, writing and public speaking informed people of the true facts of the viciousness of lynching. Ida was convinced that the public’s awareness of the atrocity of lynching would lead towards its demise.
The Anti-Lynching Crusaders also worked diligently with the N.A.A.C.P. to get a federal bill passed to stop the lynching of America’s black citizens, most notably the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. The bill did not come to fruition; the notorious racist senator Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina filibustered in the senate thereby preventing the bill’s passage.
The “Million Women to Stop Lynching” campaign was to have young women stump the country to raise 1 million dollars, with citizens contributing one dollar per person to the campaign.
Taking a look at the Anti-Lynching Crusaders publishing the number of women lynched in America shows that lynching was anything but a crime carried out mainly against black men. The first document number 6 is from the correspondence between Ms. Talbert and the then executive secretary of the N.A.A.C.P., James Weldon Johnson, in 1922 on how to tackle the cruelties of lynching, especially concerning the lynchings of black women. In document 7, they state cases of black women who were lynched. In document 8 they offer suggestions on how to recruit young women and girls to spread the word on ending the violence of lynching. At the time Ms. Talbert formed the Anti-Lynching Crusaders, there were approximately 83 women who had been lynched in the United States of America. And those are the KNOWN women who were lynched.
Document 6: Mary Talbert to , 28 June 1922, NAACP Papers, Part 1: Meetings of the Board of Directors, Records of Annual Conferences, Major Speeches, and Special Reports, 1909-1950, (Microfilm, Reel 24, Frames 410-12). Introduction 23] Mary B. Talbert wrote this letter to Johnson just eight days after the NAACP conference which inspired the formation of the Anti-Lynching Crusaders. Talbert indicated in this letter that the initial objective of the Crusaders was to focus on ending the lynching of colored women. The following two documents restate this view, but not enough documentary material has survived to evaluate whether the gendered goal stated in this letter became the sole justification for the Crusaders’ fundraising campaign. Documents 7 and 8 suggest that the prevention of lynching of both white and black women was the objective of the Crusaders, at least as stated in their publicity flyers. became the executive secretary of the NAACP in December 1920 and alongside Walter White, his assistant, Johnson was the driving force behind the NAACP campaign for the Dyer Bill.[
Buffalo June 28- My Dear Mr. Johnson: You certainly have it on me, but I am so rushed I guess I stand on my head part of the time. I really haven’t the time or money to come down again so soon. But I am going to make the sacrifice and be there Monday July 10. I am also calling a small conference of women on July 8th. I firmly believe I can put this over–one million, but I can do it. I will enlist every secret organization in every state–and every church, including Colored Catholics. I believe it can be done. The only literature we will need will be for the 4000 speakers and workers, and the books for receipt. My plan is not to divide with any branch, but send money direct to National Office. The branch however can solicit their membership afterwards. This is to be a drive for one million women to suppress Lynching of Colored Women. I will see you July 10th.
Hastily, M. B. Talbert
Document 7: “The Anti-Lynching Crusaders: The Lynching of Women,” , NAACP Papers, Part 7: The Anti-Lynching Campaign, 1912-1955, Series B: Anti-Lynching Legislative and Publicity Files, 1916-1955, (Microfilm, Reel 3, Frames 570-73).
Introduction In this and the following four documents, the organizers of the Anti-Lynching Crusaders articulated their objectives and imagined the form their organization would take. The horror of lynching and the prevalence of this crime had moved these women to action. While undated, this document and documents 8 and 9 were likely written in June or July of 1922 as the Crusaders took shape. In this document the Crusaders spelled out their position on lynching and sought to dispel prevalent myths about lynch victims. Typically lynch victims were black men, but in this document, like several others reproduced in this project, the Crusaders emphasized the incidence of lynchings where women — black and white — were the victims. They asked: “how many people realize that since 1889 eighty-three women are known to have been lynched?” and included graphic descriptions of selected lynchings alongside statistics revealing the numbers of black and white women who had been lynched. The authors also sought to undermine the belief that lynching was typically a punishment doled out to rapists or attempted rapists. In only 16.6 per cent of lynchings, they argued, were lynch victims accused of rape. Moreover, the narratives they provided pointed to the prevalence of white men’s sexual abuse of African-American women and its connection to mob violence against blacks.
The Anti-Lynching Crusaders
The Lynching of Women. The Anti-Lynching Crusaders are a band of women organized to stop lynching. Their slogan is: “A Million Women United to Stop Lynching.” They are trying to raise at least one dollar from every woman united with them and to finish this work on or before January 1st 1923. The reason that they believe this work to be of pressing importance is because of the facts as to lynching which confront every American. First of all, how many people realize that since 1889 eighty-three women are known to have been lynched? The record is as follows:
State Colored White Total 1. 14 1 15 2. 8 2 10 3. 9 – 9 4. 8 – 8 5. 6 1 7 6. 6 – 6 7. 4 1 5 8. 3 2 5 9. 2 2 4 10. 2 2 4 11. 3 – 3 12. 1 1 2 13. – 1 1 14. Virginia – 1 1 15. – 1 1 16. W. Virginia – 1 1 17. – 1 1 83
Let us consider a few facts.MARY TURNER In May, 1918, a white plantation owner in Brooks County, , 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. On Avenue in the colored section of , two aged colored people, and man and his wife, lived. On the night of the riot, May 31, 1921, a mob broke into the home and shot both the woman and her husband from behind. The home was then set on fire. The Tribune says, February 8, 1904:
“Luther Holbert, a Doddsville (Mississippi) Negro and his wife were burned at the stake for the murder of James Eastland, a white planter, and John Carr, a Negro. The planter was killed in a quarrel which arose when he came to Carr’s cabin, where he found Holbert, and ordered him to leave the plantation. Carr and a Negro, named Winters, were also killed.”Holbert and his wife fled the plantation but were brought back and burned at the stake in the presence of a thousand people . . . . . There is nothing . . . . . to indicate that Holbert’s wife had any part in the crime.”
An Associated Press dispatch in 1911 reads as follows:
“At, Laura Nelson, a colored woman accused of murdering a deputy sheriff who had discovered stolen goods at her house, was lynched together with her son, a boy 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.”
An Associated Press dispatch in 1914 reads as follows:
“Marie Scott of Wagner County, a seventeen year old Negro girl, was lynched by a mob of white men because her brother killed one of the two white men who had assaulted her . . . . . The mob came to kill her brother but as he had escaped, lynched the girl instead.”
In 1918 Dr. E. L. Johnston, a white plantation owner, was killed and a colored boy was suspected of the deed. He was suspected because two colored girls, sisters, were working for Dr. Johnston and both were pregnant by the doctor. The boy was engaged to be married to the older. A mob took the two girls, the boy and the boy’s fifteen-year old brother to a bridge and hanged them. It is asserted that none of these four knew anything about the killing; that Dr. Johnston had been killed by a white man for seducing a white woman.THE CAUSES OF LYNCHING Most people assume that rape or attempted rape is practically the sole cause of lynching. This is not true. From 1889 up until July 1, 1922, there have been 3,465 known lynchings in the . In only 581 of these cases, or 16.6 percent, were there even an accusation of rape. In the five year period from 1914 through 1918, 264 Negroes were lynched in the , not counting those killed in the East riots. Of the 264 cases rape was the alleged cause in only 28 cases. On the other hand, in the single year of 1917 in New York County, one of the five counties forming the city of greater , 230 persons were indicted for rape, of whom 37 were indicted for rape in the first degree. Thus it may be seen that in one county alone, 9 more persons were indicted before courts for rape in the first degree than there were lynchings of Negroes for rape in the whole country during five years. And in the case of the Negroes there was only accusation and no proof. Among the 37 persons mentioned above there was not a single Negro. From 1889 through July 1, 1922, the following causes of lynching has been alleged by the mob leaders in the news dispatched:
Murder 1291 Rape 581 Crimes against the person other than rape (i.e. “striking white man,” “talking back to a white man,” “refusing to turn out of road to let white boy pass,” etc.) 868 Crimes against property 343 Miscellaneous and petty offenses 454 Other crimes 254 No offense 183
In this connection two facts must be remembered. These alleged causes are telegraphed from the place where the lynchings take place and often the news gatherer is in sympathy with the mob. Secondly, if a mob is determined to lynch a man it will more surely gain public sympathy if rape is alleged rather than any other cause. It is fair to assume that in the above list the number of actual cases of rape had been greatly exaggerated.* * *
Document 8: “Plan Organization of 1,000,000 Women to Stop Lynching in ,” , NAACP Papers, Part 7: The Anti-Lynching Campaign, 1912-1955, Series B: Anti-Lynching Legislative and Publicity Files, 1916-1955, (Microfilm, Reel 3, Frame 559).Introduction In the following document, the Anti-Lynching Crusaders described how their organization would be structured, where it would be located, and how it would recruit members. The organizers of the Crusaders hoped to tap into existing women’s clubs to staff their movement and as Document 9 indicates, recruiters were to approach Sunday schools and girls clubs to enlist the aid of girls between the ages of 8 and 18. The goal of ending lynching, the authors argued, was eminently suited to women whose task it was to ensure the “home is sacred from violence.” They asserted that lynching did not protect women from rape as this was a factor in only 16.6 percent of lynching incidents (see Document 7); instead, lynching had the undesirable effect of introducing violence into the home. As this document describes, the founders of the Crusaders envisioned the organization as a “mass movement of American women” who would ultimately protect the “fair name” of their nation.
PLAN ORGANIZATION OF 1,000,000 WOMEN TO
STOP LYNCHING IN . , NOVELIST, ACTIVE IN GUARANTY TRUST CO., ACCEPTS OFFICE OF DEPOSITORY One million women throughout the are to be enrolled in an organization called “The Anti-Lynching Crusaders”, according to plans made public today by Mrs. Grace representative of the movement. Headquarters have been established at , under the directorship of Mrs. Mary B. Talbert, winner of the Spingarn Medal for 1921, the first woman to achieve that distinction. The Guaranty Trust Co., of , has accepted the office of depository for the Anti-Lynching Crusaders. The aims of the organization as set forth in an initial statement are: “The Anti-Lynching Crusaders are a band of women organized to stop lynching. Their slogan is: ‘A Million Women United To Stop Lynching.’ They are trying to raise at least one dollar from every woman united with them and to finish this work on or before January 1st, 1923. The reason that they believe this work to be of pressing importance is because of the facts as to lynching which confront every American.” (2)
Black women lynch mob victims:
Ballie Crutchfield (D. march 15, 1901)
We know nothing of her life, only of her death, as recorded in the March 17, 1901 edition of the New York Tribune under the headline NEGRO SUSPECT ELUDES MOB; SISTER LYNCHED INSTEAD.
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Mar. 16- Ballie Crutchfield, a colored woman, met her death at the hands of a mob at Rome about midnight last night. The mob surrounded her home and took her to a bridge over Round Rock Lick Creek, near town. Her hands were tied behind her, and after being shot through the head her lifeless body was thrown into the creek. The body was removed to-day, and the jury of inquest returned a verdict that she met death at the hands of unknown persons.
“This Is Her First Lynching”, by Reginald Marsh (1898-1954) The New Yorker, September 8, 1934.
The lynching was the result of a suspicion that the negress was in some way connected with the theft of the contents of a pocketbook containing $120, which was lost by Walter Sampson last week. The purse was found on the ground by a negro boy, who was on his way to return it to the owner, when he was met by William Crutchfield, a brother of the dead woman, who induced the boy to give him the pocketbook upon representation that the contents were of no value. Mr. Sampson had Crutchfield arrested, and he was taken to the house of Squire Bains for safekeeping.
That night a mob visited the house of Squire Bains and took Crutchfield from the custody of the Sheriff. The mob started with Crutchfield to the place selected for execution, when he broke from them and succeeded in effecting his escape in the dark.
This so enraged the mob that they suspected Crutchfield’s sister Ballie of being implicated in the theft, and last night’s work was the culmination of that suspicion.”
(“The Book Of African-American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators and Upliftors”)
Although the overwhelming majority of lynch mob victims of white mob violence were men and boys, lynchers did not discriminate. Ballie Crutchfiled was not the first, nor only, black American woman who lost her life to a white mob, and she would not be the last. For example, the murder of Jennie Steers in 1903 was reported in the Chicago Record-Herald:
“SHREVEPORT, La., July 26—-Jennie Steers, a negro woman, who, it is charged, gave 16 year old Elizabeth Dolan a glass of poisoned 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.”
(“The Book of African American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators and Upliftors”)
October 9, 1916
NEGRESS TAKEN FROM JAIL AND RIDDLED WITH BULLETS
ARLINGTON, Ga., Oct. 4—Mary Conley, the negro woman whose son, Sam Conley, killed E. M. Melvin, a prominent white planter, near here Monday, was taken from the guardinghouse in Leary some time during the night and lynched. Her body, riddled with bullets, was found by the roadside by parties coming into Arlington during the early morning hours.
When Melvin reprimanded Sam Conley for the way the latter was neglecting his work the negro’s mother showed resentment. It is claimed that Melvin then slapped and grappled with her, whereupon Sam Conley picked up an iron scale weight and struck the white man on the head in defense of the mother. Melvin died a short time later.
Conley escaped, but his mother was captured and put in jail here.
The mob had no difficulty in breaking into the guardhouse, which was unguarded, the officers not anticipating trouble.
The lynching was very quiet.”
(From, “100 Years Of Lynchings”)
Although her name is not mentioned among the above women’s names, the case of little Mildrey Brown stands out in its poignancy. Ida Wells investigated 728 lynchings at a time when they were routinely being carried out in this country. Mrs. Wells concluded that most victims were killed for alleged crimes like “incendiarism,” “race prejudice,” “quarreling with whites,” and “making threats.”Mrs. Wells used as an example one of the more horrible lynchings in the case of little Mildrey.”So great is the southern prejudice, they…hung poor little 13-year-old Mildrey Brown at Columbia, South Carolina, Oct. 7 on circumstantial evidence that she poisoned a white infant. “If her guilt had been proven unmistakable, had she been white, Mildrey Brown would never have been hung. The country would have been aroused and South Carolina disgraced forever.” (3)
Ms. Wells, while on her campaign through England speaking out against the atrocities of American lynch mob injustice, also spoke of a particularly vicious lynching of a defenseless black woman who suffered a monstrous death under the following circumstances:
“Their consciousness raised about the situation in the United States, now, as Wells reported, people were coming up to her after her lectures, expressing indignation when they heard of an American lynching. She was keeping up with the reports as well, but on one occasion someone told her of a recent incident that she had not yet heard about, and the cruelty and the shock of it unsettled her.
“A black woman in San Antonio, Texas, Ida was told, had been boxed up in a barrell with nails driven through the sides and then rolled up and down a hill until she was dead.
“I sat there as if turned to stone,” Ida recalled, “with tears rolling down my cheeks with this new evidence of outrage upon my people, and the apathy of the American white people.”
-excerpt from “Ida, A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching”, by Paula J. Giddings, Amistad (Harper Collins Publishers), pg. 292.
The mob lynchings of black Americans was a very brutal act of ultimate savagery, bordering on sadistic depravity:
Many of these victims were ritualistically tortured. In 1904, Luther Holbert and his wife were burned to death. 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. . .were cut off. Holbert was beaten severely, his skull fractured and one of his eyes, knocked out with a stick, hung by a shred from the socket. Members of the mob then speared the victims with a large corkscrew, “the spirals tearing out big pieces of. . . .flesh every time it was withdrawn.” (4)
December 18, 1915
RAPE, LYNCH NEGRO MOTHER
., Dec. 17—Thursday a week ago Cordella Stevens was found early in the morning hanging to a limb of a tree, without any clothing, dead. She had been hung Wednesday night after a mob had visited her cabin, taken her from her husband and lynched her after they maltreated her. The body was found about fifty yards north of the Mobile & R. R., and the thousands and thousands of passengers that came in and out of this city last Thursday morning were horrified at the sight. She was hung there from the night before by a bloodthirsty mob who had gone to her home, snatched her from slumber, and dragged her through the streets without any resistance. They carried her to a far-off spot, did their dirt and then strung her up. The mob took the woman about 10 o’clock at night. After that no one knows exactly what happened. The condition of the body showed plainly that she had been mistreated. The body was still hanging in plain view of the morbid crowd that came to gaze at it till Friday morning, when it was cut down and the inquest held.
“The jury returned a verdict that she came to death at the hands of persons unknown.” (5)
Black women have been hunted down through many cities across America during race riots and pogroms; they have been drug from their homes and hung from lamp posts; they have had their children torn from their arms and seen those children’s brains dashed upon the pavement; they have been the objects of insult and outrage at every turn; they have had their homes burnt down over their heads; they have seen their children not allowed to enter schools, they have had their children sold from their loving embrace, before the child could barely come into the world—-black women have suffered from much cruelty and babarity in this country.
And that the history of the lynching of black women in America has been hidden so long from knowledge is unconscionable. As members of the community most severely targeted by lynch-law in the New South, black American women remain virtually invisible to historians examining this phenomenon. Though scholars acknowledge the lynching of black women, their deaths are presented as parenthetical, as footnotes, as afterthoughts, and therefore unworthy of historical analysis. Following in the footsteps of contemporary anti-lynching advocates who failed to view the lynching of black women as a unique and separate occurrence, current and past scholars have overlooked the fact that many Southern white mobs purposely and willfully sought out and brutalized black women.
Assigning the experiences of lynched black women to the margins widens the historical void, negating the importance of understanding that the rapes and lynchings of black women ties in with the lynchings of black men. First, it is the denial of giving an important aspect of black American women’s history. Whether one or one thousand women died at the hands of white southern mobs, those deaths must be counted and included in our collective remembering of black women’s lives in the post-Reconstruction South. Second, scholar’s avoidance of examining lynched black women suggest that this area of inquiry would add nothing to our understanding of lynching or southern mob violence. Unfortunately, this assumption is made without research or investigation, hence without basis. Additionally, as long as current scholarship continues to treat the mob murders of black American women as irrelevant, the implication is that their deaths held no meaning in local black communities, and had little, if any, impact on the southern community at-large. However, the lynching of black women was significant. It was an attempt to undermine black families and destabilize the entire black American community, while simultaneously reaffirming southern whites’ rabid power. In other words, terrorism at its most brutally sadistic and depraved. Finally, the exclusion of lynched women inadvertently masks the epidemic of racialized sexual violence experienced by many southern black women. It was a unique form of violence that permeated their everyday lives, often influencing decisions made and actions taken. In the bodies of lynched women we can see clearly the legacy of that violence.
To begin addressing some of the aforementioned historical voids, the buried history of black women’s lynchings is examined in the reported lynching of black American women in the South, as referenced by the inclusion of the Anti-Lynching Crusaders and the efforts of Ida B. Wells-Barnett in my essay. Researching more information and documentation is needed, as lynched black women are located at the center of their own stories where their experiences can be identified, and the condition of their lives and deaths explored.
Placing black women at the center, recognizes them as contributors to as well as victims of the entire southern race, class, and gender matrix. As laborers, grass root activists and organizers, mothers of black children, sexual and romantic partners to black and white men alike, black American women were an integral part of life in the New South. A race, class and gender framework reveals how those various roles made black women a valued group of producers and reproducers, yet also vulnerable to the South’s penchant for sexualized racial violence. Additionally, factoring in community membership as another target identity, we can discern how black women’s various roles made them a valued group of producers and reproducers. Yet, that unique status also made them vulnerable to racialized sexual violence.
As blacks, as women, as workers branded with the stigma of slavery, black American women not only faced economic exploitation and socio-political marginalization, but also beatings, sexual assaults, and murder. Indeed, the same forces that allowed for the exploitation of all black women, similarly created a dynamic that led to the lynching of others. (6)
It is time for America to come to terms with learning of and acknowledging this cruel part of American history. That the history of black women, men and children being lynched, tortured, burned at the stake and body parts fought over by savages who worshipped lawlessness and bestial behaviour is not taught in American public schools comes as no surprise.
How can such a subject be taught in the school system when this country still has not come to terms with the holocaust it has perpetuated against its black citizens for over 400+ years?
Until America finally decides to commit itself to a Reconciliation Committee that seeks to address all the legacies of the vestiges of slavery, segregation, and lynching, America can expect to continue to have race problems well into the future, as long as this country exists.
In June, 2005, the U. S. Senate after a contentious debate on the Senate floor, finally issued a formal apology to the black families of the victims of lynching. It (those members of the Senate who voted for this apology which as far as I am concerned, they can shove up a certain rectal orifice) finally did apologize for the callous disregard that this country’s legislative body showed when it had the chance to enact laws to stop lynchings. Too late for the tens of thousands of victims, both known and unknown, who fell prey to the brutality of lynch mob injustice.
HERE IS A PARTIAL LIST OF THE KNOWN BLACK WOMEN LYNCH VICTIMS:
|Sept||Mrs. John Simes||Henry Co KY||Republican|
|Nov||Mrs. Hawkins (m)||Fayette Co KY||Republican|
|—– Hawkins (d)||Fayette Co KY||Republican|
|May||Mrs. Ben French||Warsaw KY||murder|
|4 Nov||Maria Smith||Hernando MS||murder|
|29 July||Milly Thompson||Clayton GA|
|6 Dec||Julia Brandt (15)||Joe Barnes Vance Brandt||Charleston SC||theft/murder|
|*4 Sept||Ann (Eliza) Cowan (35)||Newberry SC||arson|
|29 Sept||Harriet Finch||Jerry Finch John PattishalLee Tyson||Chatham Co NC||murder|
|Sept||—–||Cummins Pulaski KY|
|25 July||Mary Hollenbeck||Tattnall GA||murder|
|18 Aug||Eliza Wood||Madison TN||murder|
|28 April||Gracy Blanton||W. Carroll LA||theft|
|15 April||Roxie Elliott||Centerville AL|
|9 May||Mrs. Lee||Lowndes MS||son accused of murder|
|1 Aug||Eliza Lowe||Henry AL||arson|
|Ella Williams||Henry AL||arson|
|28 Sept||Louise Stevenson||Grant White||Hollandale MS||murder|
|3 Feb||Mrs. Martin||Sumner Co TN||son accused of arson|
|10 Feb||Mrs. Brisco(w)||AK||race prejudice|
|10 Feb||Jessie Dillingham||Smokeyville TX||train wrecking|
|11 March||Ella (15)||Rayville LA||attempted murder/poisoning|
|2 Nov||Mrs. Hastings(m)||son (16)||Jonesville LA||husband accused|
|Hastings(d,14)||Jonesville LA||father accused of murder|
|21 Dec||Cora||Guthrie,Indian Territory|
|19 March||Jessie Jones||Jellico TN||murder|
|18 July||Meredith Lewis||Roseland LA||murder|
|15 Sept||Emma Fair||Paul Hill Paul ArcherWilliam Archer||Carrolton AL||arson|
|16 Sept||Louisa Carter (Lou)(m)||Jackson MS||poisoning a well|
|Mahala Jackson (d)||Jackson MS||poisoning a well|
|Nov||Mrs. Phil Evens (m)||Bardstown KY|
|Evans (d)||Bardstown KY|
|Evans (d)||Bardstown KY|
|4 Nov||Mary (Eliza) Motlow||Lynchburg VA||arson|
|9 Nov||Rilla Weaver||Clarendon AK|
|6 March||unknown Negro woman||Pulaski AK|
|16 July||Marion Howard||Scottsville KY|
|24 July||Negro woman||Simpson Co MS||race prejudice|
|20 March||Harriet Tally||Petersburg TN||arson|
|21 April||Mary Deane||Greenville AL||murder|
|Alice Green||Greenville AL||murder|
|Martha Green||Greenville AL||murder|
|1 July||Mollie Smith||Trigg County KY|
|20 July||Mrs. Abe Phillips (m)||unnamed child (1) Hannah Phillips (d)||Mant TX|
|23 July||Negro woman||Brenham TX|
|2 Aug||Mrs. James Mason||James Mason (h)||Dangerfield TX|
|*28 Aug||Negro woman||Simpson MS||miscegenation|
|26 Sept||Felicia Francis||New Orleans LA|
|11 Oct||Catherine Matthews||Baton Rouge LA||poisoning|
|2 Dec||Hannah Kearse||(Walker,m) Isom K. (s)||Colleton SC||stealing a bible|
|*12 Jan||Charlotte Morris||Jefferson LA||miscegenation/living with white “husband”|
|1 Aug||Isadora Morely||Selma AL||murder|
|18 Nov||Mimm Collier||Steenston MS|
|9 Feb||Negro woman||Carrolton MS||theft/arson|
|5 March||Otea Smith||Julietta FL||murder|
|12 May||Amanda Franks||Jefferson AL||murder|
|Molly White||Jefferson AL||murder|
|22 Feb||Dora Baker||(d,2) Frazier Baker(f)||Williamsburg SC||race prejudice|
|9 Nov||Rose Etheridge||Phoenix SC||murder|
|13 Nov||Eliza Goode||Greenwood SC||murder|
|1899 23 March||Willia Boyd||Silver City MS|
|2 March||Mrs. Jim Cross (m)||Lowndes AL|
|Cross (d)||Lowndes AL|
|7 July||Lizzie Pool||Hickory Plains AK||race prejudice|
|25 July||Anna Mabry||New Orleans LA||race prejudice|
|28 Aug||Negro woman||Negro man||Forrest City NC||theft of peaches|
|5 March||Ballie Crutchfield||Rome TN||theft|
|20 March||Terry Bell||Terry MS|
|1 Aug||Betsey McCray (m)||Belfiield (s)||Carrolton MS||knowledge of murder|
|Ida McCray (d)||Carrolton MS||knowledge of murder|
|4 Oct||Negro woman||Marshall TX||assault|
|15 Feb||Bell Duly||Fulton KY|
|27 Dec||Mrs.Emma Wideman||Oliver Wideman||Troy SC||murder|
|Negro woman||murder of Mrs. Frank Matthews|
|8 June||Negro woman||Negro men (4)||Smith County MS||murder|
|24 June||Lamb Whittle||Concordia LA|
|*25 July||Jennie Steers||Beard Plantation, Shreveport LA||murder by poison|
|28 Oct||Jennie McCall||Hamilton FL||by mistake|
|7 Feb||Holbert||Luther Holbert||Doddsville MS||burning barn|
|*14 June||Marie Thompson||Lebanon Junction KY||murder|
|30 August||unknown||Bates Union AK|
|7 Nov||Meta Hicks||Mitchell GA||husband accused of murder|
|20 March||Negro woman||Stamps AK|
|Negro woman||Stamps AK|
|21 May||Mrs. Padgett (m)||Son||Tattnall GA||son accused of rape|
|Padgett (d)||Tattnall GA||brother accused of rape|
|3 Oct||Mrs. D. Walker (m)||Fulton KY||race hatred|
|Walker (d)||Fulton KY||race hatred|
|9 Feb||Robby Baskin||Houston MS||murder|
|30 July||Emile Antione||Grand Prairie LA||assault|
|April 5||Laura Mitchell||Lonoke AK||murder|
|*25 Aug||Laura Porter||Monroe LA||disreputable house|
|*25 May||Laura Nelson||L.D. (14)(s)||Okemah OK||murder|
|2 Sept||Hattie Bowman||Ed Christian||Greenville FL||theft|
|**||Pettigrew (d)||Ben Pettigrew (f)||Savannah TN|
|**||Pettigrew (d)||Savannah TN|
|Negro woman||Codele GA|
|*23 Jan||Belle Hathaway||John Moore Eugene HammingDusty Cruthfield||Hamilton GA||tenants of murdered man|
|11 Feb||Negro woman||Negro children (3)||Beaumont TX|
|13 Feb||Mary Jackson||George Saunders||Marshall TX|
|25 June||Ann Boston||Pinehurst GA||murder|
|13 Mar**||Mrs. Joe Perry (m,w)||Joe Perry (h) SonChild||Henderson NC|
|*31 Mar||Marie Scott (17)||Muskogee OK||murder|
|28 May/June**||Jennie Collins||Shaw MS||aiding in escape|
|17 June||Paralee Collins (m)||Issac (s)||West Plains MO|
|*12 July||Rosa Richardson (27-35)||Providence/Santee SC||murder|
|25 Nov||Jane Sullivan||Fred Sullivan (h)||Byhalia MS||burning a barn|
|15 Jan||Eula Charles||(Barber,d) Dan Barber (f)||Jasper County GA||parents accused of bootlegging|
|Ella Charles||(Barber,d) Jesse Barber(b)||Jasper County GA||parents accused of bootlegging|
|17 Aug||Hope Hull||AL|
|*8 Dec||Cordella Stevenson||Columbus MS|
|19 Aug||Mary Dennis||Newberry FL||aiding in escape|
|Stella Long||Newberry FL||aiding in escape|
|4 Oct**||Mary Conley||Arlington GA||complicity in murder|
|1 March||Emma Hooper||Hammond LA||murder|
|17 May||Mary Turner (pregnant)||Brooks Co GA||taught a lesson|
|4 June||Sarah Cabiness||unnamed children(2) Bessie Cabiness(d)Pete (s)Tenola Cabiness(d)Cute Cabiness (d)||Huntsville TX||threatening white man|
|4 Sept||Mrs. James Eyer||Marion GA|
|*21 Dec||Alma House (pregnant)||Andrew Clark||Shubuta MS||murder|
|5 May||unknown Negro woman||Holmes MS||race prejudice|
|2 Nov||unknown Negro woman||Ocoee FL||race prejudice|
|18 Nov||Minnie Ivory||Willie Ivory Will Perry||Douglass GA||murder|
|9 April||Rachel Moore||Rankin MS||race prejudice|
|25 June||Mercy Hall||Oklahoma City OK||strike activity|
|5 Jan||Sarah Carrier||Rosewood FL||race prejudice|
|Lesty Gordon||Rosewood FL||race prejudice|
|29 Sept||Negro woman||Pickens MS|
|31 Sept||Negro woman||Holmes MS||race prejudice|
|23 June||Penny Westmoreland||Marcus Westmoreland||Spalding GA|
|19 July||—– Sheldon||Meridian MS|
|11 Sept||Sarah Williams||Shreveport LA|
|*25 April||Annie Lowman (m)||Aiken SC||defending her daughter|
|25 April||Lily Cobb||Birmingham AL|
|25 May||Eliza Bryant||Duplin NC||success|
|8 Oct||Bertha Lowman(d,s1)||Demon (b)||Aiken SC||lynched after acquitted of murder|
|11 Nov||Sally Brown||Clarence (c)||Houston TX|
|25 Dec||Negro woman (1)||Eros LA||dispute w/ whites|
|Negro woman (2)||Eros LA||dispute w/whites|
|12 Feb||Laura Wood||Salisbury NC|
|5 July||Viola Dial (pregnant)||Narketta MS||race prejudice|
|6 July||Mrs. James Eyers||Markeeta MS||race prejudice|
|10 Sept||Holly White||Pigg Lockett||Scooba MS|
|May||Mrs. Wise||Frankfort VA||resisting Klan|
|*25 July||Dorothy Malcolm(w)||Roger Malcolm (h)||Monroe GA||able to identify mob members|
|Mae Dorsey||George Dorsey (h)||Monroe GA||able to identify mob members|
|*25 March||Angenora Spencer||Hyde NC||miscegenation|
|18 Nov||Mrs. Frank Clay||Henderson NC||dispute|
*Crystal Nicole Femister has a similar chart in the Appendix of her dissertation “Ladies and Lynching”: The Gendered Discourse of Mob Violence in the New South, 1880-1930. Having used overlapping sources accounts for similarities although there are differences in categories, variations of names, locations and some of the other content.
A week earlier, Laura tries to escape. She bites the jailor in the scuffle and he calls her wild and unruly. He recounts that as he choked her back into the makeshift women’s cell in the courthouse, Laura begged he kill her. (7)
The two negroes were taken west of town six miles to the Canadian river bridge in a negro settlement and were swung from the bridge. Both the woman and boy were gagged with tow sacks. The rope was half inch hemp, and the loops were made in the regular hangman’s knot. The woman’s arms were swinging at her side, untied, while about twenty feet away swung the boy with his clothes partly torn off and his hands tied with saddle string. The only marks on either body were that made by the ropes upon the necks. Gently swaying in the wind, the ghastly spectacle was discovered this morning by a negro boy taking his cow to water. (8)
The lynching came as a complete surprise to the sheriff’s forces and the people….and while the general sentiment was adverse to the method, it is generally thought that the negroes got what would have been due them under due process of law. (9)
The woman was very small of stature, very black, and about thirty-five years old, and vicious….the boy was about fourteen years old, slender and tall, yellow and ignorant. (9)
Janitor Frank Jacobs of the court house received a scare Sunday morning that he will remember for the rest of his life. He had business in the room in the county court house in which the female cell is located and entered the room before it was quite daylight. Not finding what he wanted he struck a match to look around, when he heard a noise in the female cell, and turning in that direction was almost paralyzed with fright to see standing in the cell door a negro woman clad in long white garments. He knew in an instant that the ghost of the Nelson woman had visited the cell from which she was taken, and as soon as he could move he started out of there. A few boxes, chairs etc., that got in his way were run over, and parties hearing the noise would have thought a half dozen mules were being driven down the court house stairs.
The apparition was the negro woman, Mable Brown, brought up from Weleetka Saturday evening and place in the cell without Mr. Jacobs knowing of her presence there. Hearing him moving around the woman got up to see what it was, and the ghostly robes were nothing more frightful than a long white night gown. (11)
“Grief and a haunting unreality permeate this photo. The corpse of Laura Nelson retains an indissoluble femininity despite the horror inflicted upon it. Specterlike, she seems to float – thistledown light and implausibly still. For many African Americans, Oklahoma was a destination of hope, where they could prosper without the laws in southern states that codified racism and repression. What was to be a promised land proved to be a great disillusionment. “District Judge Caruthers convened a grand jury in June 1911 to investigate the lynching of the Negro woman and her son. In his instructions to the jury, he said, “The people of the state have said by recently adopted constitutional provision that the race to which the unfortunate victims belonged should in large measure be divorced from participation in our political contests, because of their known racial inferiority and their dependent credulity, which very characteristic made them the mere tool of the designing and cunning. It is well known that I heartily concur in this constitutional provision of the people’s will. The more then does the duty devolve upon us of a superior race and of greater intelligence to protect this weaker race from unjustifiable and lawless attacks.” (12)
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.”
1. “Strange Fruit”, Abel Meerpol, 1939.
3. Ida B. Wells-Barnett, “1895 Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases”.
4. “Lynching, Federalism and the Intersecton of Race and Gender in the Progressive Era”, Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, by Barbara Holden-Smith.
5. 100 Years of Lynching”, by Ralph Ginsburg, Black Classic Press, 1996.
6. “Of These, One was a Woman: The Lynching of African-American Women, 1885-1946, by Marie Rose Johnson, 1998.
7. Various newspaper accounts. Thursday, May 25, 1911: The Okemah Ledger, Okemah, OK ‘Lynchers Avenge the Murder of Geo. Loney, The Nelson Woman and Her Boy are Taken from the County Jail by Unknown Parties and Swung from Bridge Across North Canadian’; The Independent Vol.7 No. 36 Okemah, Okfuskee County, OK ‘Woman and Boy Lynched, A Mob Enters the County Jail Last Night and Take two Negro Prisoners Whom They Hang from a Bridge’. Friday, May 26, 1911: The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, OK ‘Woman Lynched by Side of Son, Okfuskee County Mob Takes Double Revenge for Officer’s Death, Bridge is Gallows’; Tulsa World, Tulsa, Ok ‘Mother and Son are Lynched at Okeemah, jailor is surprised and bodies later found dangling from a bridge’.
8. Okemah Ledger May 25, 1911 ‘Lynchers Avenge the Murder of Geo. Loney. The Nelson woman and her boy are taken from the county jail by unknown parties and swung from bridge across North Canadian’
9. The Okemah Ledger, Okemah, OK Thursday, May 25, 1911 p.1
10. The Okemah Ledger, Okemah, OK Thursday, May 25, 1911 p.1
11. The Okemah Ledger Thursday, July 13, 1911 ‘Seen the Nelson Woman’s Ghost in Female Cell’
12. Journal E: Without Sanctuary – Lynching Photography in America”
13. Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States: 1889-1918, Greenwood Press Reprint, New Edition of 1919 Edition, (February 23, 1970)
14. “Stranger Fruit: The Lynching of Black Women – The Cases of Rosa Richardson and Marie Scott”, by Maria de Longoria (dissertation that opens in a pdf format).
15. Kara Lynch: “episode 3: Meet Me in Okemah“.
VIDEO OF PHILLIP DRAY LECTURE ON HIS BOOK, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, taped February 4, 2003, at Boston University.
IN REMEMBERANCE OF MARY TURNER, MAE MURRAY DORSEY AND DOROTHY MALCOLM: