Sam Fleming (Lynching of)

On May 6, 1907, an African-American man named Sam Fleming—who was reportedly from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County)—was hanged at McGehee (Desha County) for winning a fight with a white bartender named Henry Vaughan.

According to the Arkansas Gazette, Fleming was a “former Pine Bluff negro” who had lived in McGehee for several years. He was working in a saloon for black patrons owned by a man named Hellworth. Fleming had supposedly been in frequent trouble in Pine Bluff, once throwing a glass at a liquor dealer named Edward Wertheimer and wounding him in the head. Next door to Fleming’s workplace was a saloon for whites, also owned by Hellworth, where Henry Vaughan worked. Fleming and Vaughan had a fight, and Fleming triumphed, allegedly declaring afterward that a white man “was no good anyway.” He was arrested and jailed for disturbing the peace but was unable to post bond and remained in jail pending an appearance in court the next day. When officers went to retrieve Fleming for his court appearance, they found his cell empty and assumed he had escaped.

After further investigation, however, they discovered that he had been taken from the jail and hanged during the night, apparently by a mob of twenty-five masked men. The Hutchinson News of Kansas reported that the men had removed the hinges from the jail door to gain access to Fleming. The incident had evidently been conducted very quietly, with even a woman working in a telephone office near the site of the lynching being unaware of the event. Fleming’s body was left hanging from a tree for most of the following day. The Broad Ax of Chicago, Illinois, had an inflammatory take on the incident, opining: “It must be remembered that Fleming was not charged with raping some white woman who might not be averse to being raped by some good looking black man with plenty of money.”

For additional information:
“Fights White Man; Lynched.” Broad Ax (Chicago, Illinois), May 11, 1907, p. 2.

“Lynched for Winning Fight.” Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kansas), May 8, 1907, p. 1.

“Negro Hanged by Mob at M’Ghee.” Arkansas Gazette, May 7, 1907, p. 2.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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