Nat Hadley (Reported Lynching of)

Beginning in the 1880s, and increasingly as Jim Crow laws were instituted across the South, newspapers across the United States began to increase their coverage of Southern lynchings. In addition, publications like the Chicago Tribune and organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Tuskegee Institute in Alabama began to keep annual lists of lynchings. Further examination of some newspaper accounts, however, shows that subsequent articles later corrected some lynching accounts to indicate that no lynching had indeed happened. False or questionable reports of this kind are often repeated on lynching lists published on the internet.

This is the case with the supposed lynching of Nat Hadley (identified in one article as Newt Bradley). According to Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889–1918, an African-American man named Nat Hadley, accused of murder, was lynched near Gurdon (Clark County) on November 20, 1891.

News of the supposed lynching first appeared in a very brief article in the Arkansas Gazette on November 26, 1891. The Gazette indicated that an unidentified Black man had been lynched “last night” at Gurdon, which would have placed the event later than November 20. The Gazette commented, “Owing to the lateness of the hour, and the inability to get telegraphic service, further particulars could not be learned.” Subsequent reports in the Gazette and the Arkansas Democrat indicate that this reported lynching caused some unrest in the community. There were reports that the Clark County sheriff had asked Governor James Eagle for help in case of an “imminent” race riot, but also that everything was back to normal in Gurdon and no request had been sent to the governor. According to the November 27 issue of the Democrat, “There was a shooting scrape at Gurdon between a constable and a negro, whom the former had arrested, but no one was killed.”

The following day, the Daily Tobacco Leaf Chronicle and several other newspapers gave more details of the situation. According to these accounts, the town marshal, J. J. Huffman, had arrested a Black man for allegedly stealing $100 from a local laborer. Subsequently, a crowd of Black people overpowered the marshal, allowing the prisoner to escape. A posse was organized, and “the whole town came out in force[;] guns, knives and revolvers were freely used.” The Chronicle reported that there was no damage done “besides the killing of one man whose name could not be learned, and the wounding of Newt Bradley….The negroes are thoroughly aroused, and it is feared will make a general attack upon the whites during the night.” On December 1, however, the Semi-Weekly Interior Journal published an update, noting that contrary to previous reports, “The desperate fight turns out to have been a shooting array between a constable and a negro, in which nobody was killed.”

For additional information:
“The Gurdon Riot.” Arkansas Gazette, November 28, 1891, p. 2.

“Negro Lynched.” Arkansas Gazette, November 26, 1891, p. 2.

“No Riot Imminent.” Arkansas Democrat, November 27, 1891, p. 1.

Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889–1918. New York: NAACP, 1919.

Untitled. Semi-Weekly Interior Journal (Stanford, Kentucky), December 1, 1891, p. 1.

“Whites vs. Negroes.” Daily Tobacco Leaf Chronicle (Clarksville, Tennessee), November 28, 1891, p. 1.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina

Last Updated: 10/21/2021