John Barnett (Lynching of)

On April 17, 1905, an African-American levee worker named John Barnett was hanged by a black mob near Askew (Lee County) for allegedly murdering a fellow worker.

Barnett may have been the same John Barnett who, at the time of the 1900 census, was living in Independence Township (Lee County). He was a forty-nine-year-old widower and was working on a rented farm and raising six children between the ages of six and eighteen. Barnett’s alleged victim was Albert Wakefield. The only man by that name in the region was another African American living in Tunica County, Mississippi, just across the Mississippi River. He was also a widower and was working as a day laborer.

According to newspaper accounts, in late April 1905, a group of men had begun work on the levee near Askew, on the west bank of the St. Francis River in Lee County. Barnett had apparently appeared at the camp the previous week looking for work, and he was hired. Wakefield (sometimes referred to in newspapers as Walzfield or Walsefield) informed their boss that he had known Barnett earlier, describing him as a “dangerous man.” On Sunday, April 16, Barnett confronted Wakefield and killed him. This incensed the other black workers at the site, and on April 17 they hanged Barnett from a tree and left his body there for several days. According to the Arkansas Gazette, as of April 20, no arrests had been made.

For additional information:
“Black Hanged by Negro Mob.” Rock Island Argus (Illinois), April 20, 1905, p. 6.

“Lee County Negroes Lynch Another Negro.” Arkansas Democrat, April 21, 1905, p. 1.

“Negro Lynched by Negroes.” Keowee Courier (Pickens, South Carolina), April 26, 1905, p. 2.

“Negroes Lynch a Negro.” Arkansas Gazette, April 21, 1905, p. 2.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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