David Scruggs (Lynching of)

In late July 1885, an African-American man named David Scruggs was lynched by a mob of black citizens near Redfield (Jefferson County) for allegedly committing incest with his daughter.

In 1880, farmer David Scruggs was living in Victoria (Jefferson County) with his wife, Nancy; an eleven-year-old daughter named Julia; and a ten-year-old grandchild. His wife was working as a laborer.

Although some sources say that the lynching occurred on July 24, an Arkansas Gazette article datelined Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), July 24, gives the date as “one night this week.” As July 24 was a Friday, it is probable that the lynching occurred earlier in the week. The Alexandria Gazette says that it happened on Thursday night, which would make it July 23. Both newspapers reported that Scruggs was originally jailed and was unable to post bail. He subsequently entered a writ of habeas corpus before the circuit court judge and was released. According to the Alexandria Gazette, when Scruggs returned home he was confronted by a large group of African Americans: “After some parleying, they fell upon Scruggs and cut him so horribly with knives and razors that he since has died.” While mobs of African Americans did sometimes punish criminals in their communities for egregious crimes, it was unusual for them to mutilate the victim in this way, although the same occurred in the murder of Preacher Lightfoot in Jackson County in 1892. The Arkansas Gazette indicated that two members of the Redfield mob had been arrested, but the outcome of any trial is unknown.

For additional information:
“Avenged: An Unnatural Father Lynched by his Colored Brethren.” Arkansas Gazette, July 25, 1885, p. 1.

“Vengeance from his Own Race.” Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia), July 25, 1885, p. 2.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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