Frank Robertson (Lynching of)

There is much confusion about the lynching of alleged arsonist Frank Robertson, which occurred in late March 1903. Newspapers from the time give a variety of dates for the event, ranging from March 26 to March 28. Many of the reports were datelined Lewisville (Lafayette County), although other newspapers called it New Louisville or New Lewisville; this would be the present-day Lafayette County seat of Lewisville, which was referred to as “New Lewisville” after the town moved closer to the railroad line in the late nineteenth century. Adding to the confusion, when the U.S. Congress issued an apology in 2005 for its historical inaction on lynching, its report said that Robertson’s lynching occurred on March 27 just across the Louisiana–Arkansas state line in Bossier Parish, Louisiana. It is not clear what method was used to kill Robertson; some accounts say that the lynchers disappeared with him, while others say his body was probably in a nearby canebrake, and at least one story indicates that he was strangled.

A “very meager” account of the lynching appeared in the Arkansas Gazette on March 31, 1903. According to this report, Robertson, an African-American man, was lynched by a mob of men from Louisiana near Bradley (Lafayette County); the date remains murky, as the Gazette gives various dates, ranging from “some days ago” to “Last Thursday night.” This would make it sometime during the night of March 26 or the early morning of March 27. According to this account, which was picked up by several national newspapers, Robertson was alleged to have burned down a store, was arrested, and supposedly confessed. A gang of twenty-five men came to the jail, overpowered the officers, and took Robertson away, supposedly leaving his body in the nearby canebrakes. The motive for the lynching was apparently the fact that there had recently been a number of arsons in neighboring Bossier Parish, Louisiana. On April 1, the Waxahachie Daily Light asserted that Robertson had been strangled; on April 15, the Abbeville Press and Banner reported only that a mob had disappeared with him.

For additional information:
“Arkansas Lynching.” Waxahachie Daily Light (Waxahachie, Texas), April 1, 1903, p. 2.

“Arkansas Negro Lynched.” Abbeville Press and Banner (Abbeville, South Carolina), April 15, 1903, p. 3.

“Lynched in Arkansas.” Union Times, April 3, 1903, p. 8.

“Lynching near Bradley.” Arkansas Gazette, March 31, 1903, p. 1.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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