Jefferson County Lynching of August 1897

Even when they appear in newspapers across the United States, some accounts of lynchings are so brief that it is difficult to uncover details or even confirm the events. Such is the case of an African American man whose body was supposedly found hanging from a trot line in the Arkansas River near Rob Roy (Jefferson County) in 1897.

While the Arkansas Gazette, in an article datelined September 1, reported that the body was discovered on August 31, other sources give the date as September 1 or September 2. Due to the fact that there was a rope around the man’s neck and he had several gashes in his head, reports speculated that he had been lynched and then thrown into the river. According to numerous newspapers, there was no way to identify the victim, and there had been no lynchings reported in the area recently. Like many such brief accounts, this one leaves questions as to who the victim may have been and where the lynching itself occurred.

In its comments on the Chicago Tribune lynching list for 1897, the Arkansas Democrat, having checked with editor J. W. Adams of the Pine Bluff Graphic, gave the date of this reported lynching as September 5, 1897, and asserted that no such lynching occurred at Rob Roy.

For additional information:
“The Chicago Tribune’s Statement.” Arkansas Democrat, January 27, 1898, p. 2.

“Found Dead.” Arkansas Gazette, September 2, 1897, p. 3.

“It Looks Suspicious.” Roanoke Times (Virginia), September 3, 1897, p. 1.

“Telegraphic Brevities.” Alexandria Gazette (Virginia), September 2, 1897, p. 2.

“Trot Line Caught a Negro.” Houston Daily Post, September 2, 1897, p. 7.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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