Albert Williams (Lynching of)

On April 1, 1883, a seventeen-year-old African American named Albert Williams was lynched in El Dorado (Union County) for allegedly attacking the young daughter of John Askew.

The only Albert Williams in the area at the time was the son of El Dorado farm laborer Carter Williams and his wife, Lou. He was approximately twelve years old in 1880; contrary to reports, this would have made him fifteen at the time of the lynching. John Askew was also living in El Dorado in 1880. He was a lawyer, and his household included his wife, Sarah, and a number of children, among whom was a five-year-old daughter named Tennessee. Although Williams’s alleged victim is not named, it is probable that it was Tennessee. John Askew died in December 1882, several months before the crime.

According to the Fayetteville Weekly Democrat, which reported the story more than a week after the lynching occurred, around 4:00 on Saturday afternoon, March 31, young “Ms. Askew” was returning home when a “brutal negro” dragged her into the woods. Afterward, she ran home and told her mother, and a search party was organized. That evening, several African-American youths were taken for the little girl to see, but she did not recognize any of them. On the morning of April 1, Williams was taken before her, and she identified him as “the outraging demon.” To make doubly sure, authorities then presented her with a number of other young African Americans, among whom was Williams, and she again identified him.

Williams was taken before a justice of the peace to be examined, but part of the testimony inflamed local citizens, and it was decided to put Williams in jail until things calmed down. As officers were taking Williams to the jail, a mob overtook them, took Williams, and returned with him to the place where the alleged crime had occurred. There, they hanged him from a tree. According to the Democrat, resorting to a trope common to many newspaper stories of lynchings, “Whites and blacks both seem to endorse the proceeding with almost unanimous voice. Offended justice despaired of the tardy methods and delays of the law.” No one was ever punished for the murder of Williams.

For additional information:
“Another Negro Ravisher Lynched.” Las Vegas Daily Gazette, April 5, 1883, p. 1.

“A Fiendish Negro.” Fayetteville Weekly Democrat, April 12, 1883, p. 1.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina

Last Updated: 12/07/2020