Civil War to Gilded Age

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Oats, Presley (Lynching of)

Although many lynchings in Arkansas occurred in connection with serious crimes, real or alleged, there were some people lynched for trivial reasons. On May 13, 1897, an African-American man named Presley Oats was, according to national reports, dragged from his home in Pope County and lynched for supposedly stealing a ham. This incident preceded the Atkins Race War, which began approximately two weeks later. It was, however, indicative of the racial animus caused by the recent influx of African Americans into the county. Many of these new arrivals accepted lower wages for farm work and work in the lumber mills, causing resentment among area whites. Although one newspaper account of the incident referred to Presley Oats as an “old negro,” …

Oliver, Dan (Lynching of)

On July 28, 1884, an African-American man named Dan Oliver was shot by a mob near Roseville (Logan County) for allegedly attempting to assault the daughter of a local white man identified only by his last name, Amos. Amos, whom the Arkansas Gazette called “one of the best citizens of Logan County,” was probably Elisha Amos. According to public records, Elisha Amos was born in Tennessee in 1841, and by 1860, he and his parents were living in Arkansas. He married Malinda Ann Pendergraft in Franklin County in 1862, and served in the Civil War. In 1870, he and Malinda and two children, Jesse (three years old) and Emily (six months), were living in Sebastian County. Elisha Amos was living …

Paragould Race Riots

Paragould (Greene County), which incorporated in 1883, experienced a series of incidents of racial violence and intimidation from 1888 to 1908. (In this context, a race riot is defined as any prolonged form of mob-related civil disorder in which race plays a key role.) The outmigration of African Americans that followed these various incidents helped to cement its reputation as a “sundown town.” On April 21, 1888, the Arkansas Gazette published a letter sent by a member of the black community and addressed to the country’s first elected African-American municipal judge, Mifflin Wistar Gibbs. The writer sought Gibbs’s help, telling him that “I am disgusted the way I am served, and also my friends. We are but a few colored …

Parker, Tom (Reported Lynching of)

On October 14, 1897, an African American man named Tom Parker was reportedly lynched in Cleveland County for participating in a riot at an August picnic near Kendall’s mill. While many newspapers refer to Parker as the third person to have been lynched after the incident, the only other reported lynching as a result of the incident was that of Bill Wiley (also referred to as Bill Wiley Douglass and Bill Wyatt), who was lynched in late August. Newspapers ultimately concluded that Parker had not been lynched. The earliest report of the Kendall incident appears in the Pine Bluff Daily Graphic on August 22. On Saturday, August 21, a group of African Americans had a picnic near the Kendall mill …

Phillips County Lynching of 1889–1890

On December 30–31, 1889, and January 1, 1890, three unidentified African Americans were killed in Phillips County for allegedly robbing and murdering John W. Tate. The lynching victims were not identified by name in any source. In 1880, John W. Tate, a twenty-eight-year-old white farmer, was living alone in Poplar Grove (Phillips County). According to a January 1, 1890, report in the Arkansas Gazette, sometime in the 1880s he was dealing in illegal whiskey, and there were seven indictments pending against him in Phillips County. Just prior to his death, he was running a “blind tiger” (speakeasy) at Palmerton in neighboring Monroe County. Although the Gazette reported that the crime took place on Sunday night, December 29, 1889, other reports, …

Phillips, Henry (Lynching of)

On November 13, 1897, Henry Phillips was lynched in Osceola (Mississippi County) for the alleged murder of storekeeper Tom McClanahan. Editor Leon Roussan’s coverage of the incident in the Osceola Times sparked a feud with Sheriff Charles Bowen. Bowen, a former captain in the Confederate army and a local Ku Klux Klan (KKK) leader, was prominently involved in the Black Hawk War of 1872. According to the Osceola Times, on November 6, Tom McClanahan was brutally murdered in his store. McClanahan had come from Tennessee three years earlier to work in a local sawmill. When the mill was sold, he remained in Mississippi County to settle up outstanding claims. At the same time, he operated a small grocery store in …

Pickens, William

William Pickens, who was born in South Carolina, spent his formative years in Woodruff County and Argenta, now North Little Rock (Pulaski County). He went on to become a nationally known orator, scholar, journalist, and essayist. William Pickens was born near Pendleton in Anderson County, South Carolina, on January 15, 1881. He was the sixth of ten children born to former slaves Jacob and Fannie Pickens. His father was a tenant farmer, and his mother worked as a cook and washerwoman. In 1888, they were lured to Woodruff County, Arkansas, by an immigration agent who promised them better employment and educational opportunities. At this time, such agents were scouring South Carolina for dissatisfied African Americans willing to work on Arkansas …

Pine Bluff Lynchings of 1892

On February 14, 1892, John Kelley (sometimes spelled Kelly) was lynched in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) for the murder of W. T. McAdams. At the time, Pine Bluff was the second-largest city in Arkansas. The black population in Jefferson County was seventy-three percent, and there were a number of prominent African-American landowners and merchants. The city boasted a black newspaper, as well as the state’s only college for African Americans, Branch Normal School (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). According to the Arkansas Gazette, on the night of February 9, John Kelley and several accomplices allegedly murdered W. T. McAdams, an agent for the Obest Brewing Company and a highly respected Pine Bluff citizen. At 10:30 p.m., McAdams …

Polk County Race War of 1896

In early August 1896, a “race war” broke out between white and black workers who were working on the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railway (later the Kansas City Southern) in both Polk County and near Horatio (Sevier County) to the south. As a result, three African Americans were killed and eight wounded. Although reports place some of the events near Horatio, accounts clearly stated that the purpose of the attack was to keep African Americans out of Polk County, and so it was generally referred to as the Polk County Race War. This was part of a pattern of labor-related racial intimidation that was sweeping Arkansas at the time. Other incidents during that period included unrest at the Hawthorne …

Post-bellum Black Codes

aka: Black Codes
Immediately after the Civil War, Southern states passed onerous laws to maintain their legal control and economic power over African Americans in response to the 1865 passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which ended slavery. Under slavery, whites had disciplined blacks mostly outside the law. After emancipation, fearing blacks’ revenge, slave owners sought to institute a comparable level of legal control over former slaves. While some Black Codes were not harsh, most were: African Americans could not serve on juries; could not sue or testify against whites; were prohibited from owning farms; and were forced to sign unequal labor contracts. The U.S. Congress immediately responded to the Black Codes by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1866, …

Pulaski County Lynching of 1894

On March 11, 1894, a group of African Americans discovered the body of a “mulatto” woman hanging from a tree about halfway between Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Marche (Pulaski County). The woman was never identified but was estimated at thirty years old. The body, according to reports, appeared to have been there for several days (the Arkansas Gazette even described the corpse as “decayed”). Around her neck was a placard reading, “If any body cuts this body down, they will share the same fate.” As the Arkansas Gazette reported, “The woman is supposed to have been lynched, but when, by whom and for what reason no one is able to state.” Indeed, although this murder is typically counted among …

Ramsey, Dave (Lynching of)

A young Black man named Dave Ramsey was lynched in Marianna (Lee County) on January 9, 1881, for allegedly having attempted to rape a white girl. This was the first recorded lynching in Lee County, where the death toll by lynching would eventually reach seventeen documented cases by 1919. At the time Ramsey was killed, the Black population of Lee County was more than double the white population, a disparity that would only increase in the coming years.   The first report of this event appeared in the Arkansas Gazette on January 13, 1881, under the headline, “A Raper Roped,” with the subtitle, “The Pine Bluff Code Works to Perfection.” This report consists of reprinting a letter, dated January 10 and …

Randolph, John (Lynching of)

On July 22, 1875, an African American man named John Randolph was shot by unknown men at Cowell’s Landing (Mississippi County). Randolph and another man were accused of the robbery and murder of Frank Williams, a German man who worked on a plantation named Dickenson’s Mills, which was owned by A. K. Hancock and located on Frenchman’s Bayou forty miles above Memphis, Tennessee. While the Arkansas Gazette published a story datelined Memphis on July 26, a July 31 story in the Osceola Times contained more complete and presumably more accurate information. According to the Times, on Monday, July 19, Williams was paid and then started out for the Shawnee Village landing, located on a plantation of that name owned by …

Reported Smallpox Lynching of 1894

Early in May 1894, newspapers across the country began to publish sensational articles, based on a report to Little Rock (Pulaski County) from Ouachita County, on the lynching of a man with smallpox near Miles Switch. As is often the case with false lynching reports, the news continued to circulate even after the Arkansas Gazette published a clarification on May 7. Smallpox was common in the United States during the spring of 1894, with cases appearing in most states. Arkansas was one of the states affected; even though a vaccine had been developed in the late eighteenth century, the state did not require vaccination until 1897. According to an article published by the Gazette on May 2, 1894, twenty-nine smallpox …

Reynolds, Dan (Lynching of)

In late December 1888, Dan Reynolds, an African American, was beaten and left for dead near Coffee Creek (Phillips County) by nine other African-American men who apparently disapproved of his relationship with a local black woman. The Arkansas Gazette referred to this incident as “one of the most atrocious crimes ever committed in this or any other country.” Coffee Creek is located in Big Creek Township, and Dan Reynolds had been living there for almost twenty years. He is listed in the 1870 census as a farm laborer, living with his wife, Vester (or Vesta) who was thirty-nine. By 1880, they had a ten-year-old daughter named Eliza. According to a report published in the Arkansas Gazette on January 15, 1889, …

Rice, William (Lynching of)

On November 7, 1891, an African American named William Rice was murdered in Conway County for unknown reasons. News of the event appeared in the Indianapolis Journal on November 9. Citing a report received from Little Rock (Pulaski County) on November 8, the Journal stated that Rice’s body was found hanging from a tree near Plumerville (Conway County) on the morning of November 7. Appearances indicated that Rice had been killed first, and then his body was suspended from the tree. The November 18 edition of the Pilot of Morrilton (Conway County) reported that Rice’s body had been found suspended on a bridle rein on the Springfield and Dover Road near Solgohachia (Conway County) “last Thursday morning.” This would have …

Ricks, G. W. and Moses (Lynching of)

In June 1898, prosperous African-American farmer G. W. Ricks and his son, Rev. Moses Ricks, were lynched in southern Monroe County for the alleged assault of a white farmer’s wife. According to historian Terence Finegan, whose A Deed so Accursed is a study of lynching in South Carolina and Mississippi, prosperous African Americans were occasionally lynched because their success threatened the notion of white superiority. Census information both illuminates and confuses the story. In 1870, there was a black farmer named Jim Ricks living in Monroe County’s Duncan Township. He was twenty-seven years old, and living with him were his wife, Miriam, and several other family members, all of them too old to be the Rickses’ children. Ricks was a …

Ruffin, Isaac (Lynching of)

On November 30, 1874, an African American man named Isaac Ruffin was lynched near Marion (Crittenden County) for allegedly assaulting and murdering fourteen-year-old Melissa Adams and raping her thirteen-year-old sister Margaret (Maggie); both sisters were African American. Public records reveal nothing about Ruffin, but the 1870 census lists Melissa and Margaret living in Jasper Township with their parents, Jubilee and Cynthia. On December 3, 1874, the New Orleans Bulletin published one of the earliest accounts of the crime. On November 28, Ruffin allegedly met Melissa in the woods near Marion. He assaulted her and then tried to kill her with a knife. She fought back, and in the struggle, Ruffin lost the knife. Unable to find it in the dark, …

Sanders, Jim (Lynching of)

On the night of May 28, 1882, a mob removed a young African American named Jim Sanders from the custody of authorities and killed him, using “enough buckshot to kill a score of men,” according to one account. The previous day, he had allegedly attacked Nancie (sometimes referred to as Nannie) Carr as she was cleaning the schoolhouse in the Parker community of Union Township in Pulaski County. There is very little information about Jim Sanders, whom the Arkansas Gazette refers to as a “youth.” There were two African Americans named James Sanders in Pulaski County in 1880; the most likely match is James Sanders, born around 1872, who was living in Badgett Township with his parents, Charlie and Julia …

Scruggs, David (Lynching of)

In late July 1885, an African-American man named David Scruggs was lynched by a mob of black citizens near Redfield (Jefferson County) for allegedly committing incest with his daughter. In 1880, farmer David Scruggs was living in Victoria (Jefferson County) with his wife, Nancy; an eleven-year-old daughter named Julia; and a ten-year-old grandchild. His wife was working as a laborer. Although some sources say that the lynching occurred on July 24, an Arkansas Gazette article datelined Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), July 24, gives the date as “one night this week.” As July 24 was a Friday, it is probable that the lynching occurred earlier in the week. The Alexandria Gazette says that it happened on Thursday night, which would make …

Sees, Willis (Lynching of)

Little information exists about the lynching of an African-American man, Willis Sees, in late April 1899, for the crime of arson—specifically, the burning of barns—in Osceola (Mississippi County). A brief account, citing a report out of Memphis, Tennessee, circulated in Arkansas newspapers in early May 1899. The whole account reads as follows: “A special to Memphis of April 30th gives an account of the lynching of a negro named Willis Sees at Osceola, Mississippi county. It seems that a number of barns have been fired within the last few months near Osceola, and suspicion was directed toward Sees. The negro’s wife gave information which led to his arrest.” This account is missing a great deal of information standard to reports …

Separate Coach Law of 1891

The Separate Coach Law of 1891 (Act 17) was a Jim Crow law requiring separate coaches on railway trains for white and black passengers. The law arose out of the political upheavals of the era, in which the Democratic Party sought to stave off challenges to their dominance by distracting voters with racist concerns, and it further relegated African Americans to the margins of social and economic life. By the late 1880s, large numbers of angry white farmers threatened to leave the Democratic Party and join new agrarian parties, such as the Union Labor and Populist organizations. Democratic chieftains and established elites tried to allay defections and distract attention from economic and class issues that were beginning to divide the …

Sevier County Lynching of 1881

In late May 1881, three African-American men were lynched in Sevier County for allegedly attacking a man who requested their help in crossing Rolling Fork Creek. The descriptions of the victim are confusing. The Arkansas Gazette described him as “an old man named Holly.” The St. Paul Globe reported that he was a prominent Sevier County farmer named R. F. Hall; the Memphis Daily Appeal concurred, adding that he was eccentric. The Nebraska Advertiser gave his name as A. F. Hall. In his “Early Days in Sevier County,” W. S. Ray wrote that he was a “simple-minded man named Hall” who was passing through the county. Public records do nothing to clarify his identity. His alleged attackers were not identified …

Sherrill, William LeVan

William LeVan Sherrill was a human rights activist whose black nationalist philosophy, leadership skills, and speaking abilities helped catapult him into the executive ranks of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the largest grassroots organization ever assembled by people of African descent. Sherrill was also a staunch advocate of Pan Africanist thought into the second half of the twentieth century, helping to lay a foundation for the African-American social struggle. Sherrill was born on May 9, 1894, in either Forrest City (St. Francis County) or Altheimer (Jefferson County)—sources conflict on the matter. His father was William Sherrill Sr., a Methodist minister, but the name of his mother is unknown. The predominately black St. Francis County and Jefferson County, which …

Skipper v. Union Central Life Insurance Company

aka: William Franklin Skipper (Murder of)
aka: Monticello Lynching of 1898
The death of William Franklin Skipper near Baxter (Drew County) in 1896 sparked a series of trials the Arkansas Gazette described as “perhaps the strangest case in the criminal annals of Arkansas.” The only certainty in the case seems to be that Skipper, a merchant and sawmill owner and a partner in the firm of Skipper and Lephiew (sometimes spelled Lephlew), died of a knife wound to the neck beside Bayou Bartholomew sometime on May 13, 1896. During the two criminal trials, much of the argument centered on whether he committed suicide or was murdered by a group of African-American men who worked at his mill. The criminal case dragged on for more than two years. The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the …

Slave Resistance

Enslaved people in Arkansas resisted dehumanization, demands on their labor, and limits on their activity in a variety of ways, ranging from indirect (often referred to as “passive”) to direct, even violent. Many factors—such as gender, age, location, and personality—determined slaves’ resistance strategies. Enslaved people also met with varying levels of circumscription within the system of slavery, causing them to push back against that regime in very different ways. While there is not enough evidence to determine for certain exactly how resistance strategies may have varied between slaves on Arkansas’s smaller holdings and those who resided on the state’s large plantations, it is reasonable to assume that the size of the slave-holding had some effect on resistance. For example, farm …

Smith (Lynching of)

In August 1882, an African-American man known only as Smith in published newspaper reports became the second man ever to be lynched in Pulaski County, according to available records. Jim Sanders had been lynched earlier that year in the county. In part because the victim was named only as “Smith” in published accounts, little information can be gleaned regarding his actual identity. Nothing was reported of the event in the Arkansas Gazette, and most reports that circulated nationally fell along the lines of this bare-bones account published in the Highland Weekly News of Highland County, Ohio: “Smith, who assaulted a white lady near Little Rock, Arkansas, was lynched by a disguised party who shot him to death.” The National Republican …

Smith, Henry (Lynching of)

On July 10, 1881, an African American man named Henry Smith was hanged at Des Arc (Prairie County) for allegedly murdering an orphan girl named Lucinda (Lucy) or Matilda (Mattie) Webb. According to census records, an eighteen-year-old laborer named Henry Smith was living in the household of farmer William McBee in White River Township in 1880. Reports on the lynching indicate that, in 1881, he was living on the Stallings place. There were two Stallings (or Stallins) families in White River Township at the time, those of fifty-one-year-old Len C. Stallins and thirty-five-year-old J. B. Stallins. There was an orphan girl named Webb in White River Township in 1880, but the census lists her first name as Tennessee. She was …

Smith, Jim (Lynching of)

Sometime in mid-November 1888, an African-American man named Jim Smith was lynched in Crittenden County for allegedly approaching an unidentified white woman with an insulting proposal. According to the November 30 edition of the Arkansas Democrat, which quotes the Memphis Avalanche, word reached Little Rock (Pulaski County) on November 29 that a black man named Jim Smith approached a married white woman on the road and asked her a question. She recognized him and paused to answer him, whereupon they spoke about “the weather and the cotton crop.” She was not suspicious, and answered his question, whereupon he made her “an insulting proposition.” She became angry and began to hurry away, but he followed, threatening her. The woman became increasingly …

Smith, Walter (Reported Lynching of)

In many cases of reported lynchings, newspapers in other states received initial reports by wire from local newspapers and then failed to include updates on these first stories. Such was the case with the alleged lynching of twenty-four-year-old Walter Smith in Cabot (Lonoke County) in May 1892. In Smith’s case, even the Arkansas Gazette failed to update its story on a rumored lynching. The first news of Smith’s alleged crime appeared in the Arkansas Democrat on May 23, 1892. Smith, an African American, had reportedly attacked a white woman in Cabot a week earlier. After committing “his heinous crime,” he escaped. Police wired a description of “the brute” to officials in the area, and he was found on May 22 …

Southern Arkansas Race Riots of Late 1896

During November and December 1896, there were three separate racial incidents on job sites in and around El Dorado (Union County). In mid-November 1896, there was a “race war” between white and black workers at Hawthorne Mills, twelve miles southwest of El Dorado. On Tuesday, December 1, 1896, five African-American section men who were working on the line of the Cotton Belt Railroad between Camden (Ouachita County) and Bearden (Ouachita County) were killed by a group of unidentified men. In late December, near McNeil (Columbia County), approximately twenty African Americans were shot when white men raided a sawmill. This was part of a widespread pattern of intimidation of black laborers in southern Arkansas in the 1890s, a practice that seems to …

Southland College

Southland College emerged out of a Civil War–era mission by Indiana Quakers who came to Helena (Phillips County) in 1864 to care for lost and abandoned black children. Its founders, Alida and Calvin Clark, were abolitionist members of the Religious Society of Friends who arrived in Arkansas to render temporary relief to displaced orphans. They stayed for the remainder of their working lives, establishing the school that became the first institution of higher education for African Americans west of the Mississippi River. The school survived six decades of economic adversity and social strife. After operating an orphanage and school in Helena for two years, in 1866, the Clarks, with the vital assistance of the officers and men of the Fifty-sixth …

Stone County Lynching of 1898

A possible lynching occurred in rural Stone County in March 1898. While state and national reports differ as to the likely fate of the victim, both confirm that the unnamed “negro boy” in question was repeatedly tortured by a mob. On March 18, 1898, the Kansas City Journal reported, under the headline “Arkansas Negro Boy Lynched,” the following: “A negro boy whose name cannot be learned was lynched at Marcella, in Stone County, Tuesday night March 15. He was accused of stealing $20 from the cash drawer of a store. The mob strung him up three times in an effort to make him confess and finally left him on the ground in a dying condition.” The Arkansas Gazette contains a …

Talbert, Mary Burnett

Mary Burnett Talbert was a leading African American civil rights and anti-lynching activist who also served as an educator, a nurse, and a historic preservationist. Mary Burnett was born on September 17, 1866, in Oberlin, Ohio, to Cornelius Burnett and Carolyn Nichols Burnett. As the only African American woman in her 1886 graduating class, she received a BA from Oberlin College, one of the few integrated coeducational colleges in the country. After graduating from Oberlin, she moved to Arkansas, where she taught at Bethel Institute (now Shorter College) in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She soon became the assistant principal of Union High School in Little Rock, making her the highest-ranking Black woman in the state in the education professions. In …

Templeton, George (Lynching of)

Even when they appeared in several newspapers across the United States, some accounts were of lynching so brief that it is difficult to uncover details or even confirm the events. Such was the case with the lynching of George Templeton in Hempstead County on October 26, 1885. The first of several papers to report the lynching was apparently the New York Times. In an article published on October 28, the Times reported that “six disguised men rode up to the residence of a colored man named George Templeton, in Hempstead County, called him out and shot him down.” Templeton, described as “a quiet, peaceable colored citizen,” died instantly. According to reports, “The affair has produced considerable excitement.” The following day, …

Texarkana Race Riot of 1880

In late May 1880, racial unrest often described as the Texarkana Race Riot erupted in Texarkana (Miller County). Some newspapers, including the Arkansas Gazette, compared the event to the 1874 Brooks-Baxter War in Little Rock (Pulaski County), which centered around the contested gubernatorial election between Joseph Brooks and Elisha Baxter. According to newspaper reports, the trouble started as a land dispute between an African-American man identified only as Dr. Cromwell and a white railroad worker named Conner. According to the 1880 census, railway employee James Conner was living in Miller County with his wife, Sarah, and three small children. The census was taken in June that year, and at the time there was an African-American man named Robert Cromwell, a …

Thornton, Flanigan (Lynching of)

On April 19, 1893, an African-American man named Flanigan (sometimes referred to as Flannagan or Flannigan) Thornton was hanged in Morrilton (Conway County) for allegedly murdering constable Charles Pate. While there are no records for Flanigan Thornton in Arkansas, he may have been the ten-year-old living with his parents Hyram and Chasity Thornton in Desoto County, Mississippi, in 1880 and working as a farm hand; this would have made him twenty-three at the time of the lynching. Charles Pate was born in White County, Arkansas, but by 1891, when he married Alice Phelps, he was living in Conway County. According to newspaper accounts, the alleged murder happened on April 4 near Menifee (Conway County) station, about fifteen miles from Morrilton. …

Union County Lynching of 1873

In the spring of 1873, four unidentified African Americans were reportedly murdered by other black residents in Union County in response to a hideous attack they allegedly committed on a white woman. Newspapers across the nation printed the report, based on a letter written by county resident Thomas Warren to a friend in Clay County, Missouri. In 1870, Warren, a native of Missouri, was a farm laborer living near Van Buren (Crawford County) with his wife and two children. Warren reported that in mid-March 1873, a pregnant married woman in Union County started off on horseback to stay with a neighbor for several days. When she arrived at the neighbor’s house, no one was there, and she started to ride …

United States v. Waddell et al.

United States v. Waddell et al. is a U.S. Supreme Court case that arose from an 1883 incident of nightriding (sometimes called whitecapping) in Van Buren County, in which a group of armed white men attempted to drive off a black homesteader. The case centered upon the question of whether or not an individual, having settled upon a piece of property for purposes of obtaining a federal homestead, enjoyed the protection of the federal government in attempting to exercise his rights in the face of conspiracies to intimidate. On December 13, 1882, Burrell Lindsay, an African American, made a homestead entry for a tract of land in Bradley Township in southeastern Van Buren County. On the night of January 10, …

Wallace, John (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 expand 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 the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama began to keep annual lists of lynchings. In her 1895 book The Red Record, Ida B. Wells-Barnett also attempted to include a comprehensive list of lynchings. Not all of these lists, upon further analysis, were accurate, and more recent lynching lists often also include certain erroneous accounts. Further examination of newspaper reports shows that subsequent articles, particularly local to the site of the lynchings, later corrected …

Ware, Jim and Jack (Lynching of)

On July 14, 1895, brothers Jim and Jack Ware, who allegedly assisted Wiley Bunn in the murder of Allen Martin, were lynched in Hampton (Calhoun County). The Ware family had been living in Calhoun County for some time. In 1870, Moses and Easter Ware were living in Jackson Township. Among their children were two sons, fifteen-year-old James (Jim) Ware and thirteen-year-old Jack. Moses and James Ware were working as laborers. They were still in Jackson Township in 1880. Jack, along with James and James’s wife, Susan, were still living with their parents. Moses was farming, and both James and John were working as laborers. In 1880, fourteen-year-old Willey (Wiley) Bunn was living in Jackson Township with his parents, Drew and …

Warren, Nathan

Nathan Warren was one of the few free black businessmen in antebellum Arkansas, as well as a noted musician and the founder of the state’s first African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) congregation. Nathan Warren was born into slavery in 1812 in Versailles, Kentucky, on the Crittenden Plantation. John Crittenden, brother of Robert Crittenden (and later Kentucky governor, U.S. congressman, and U.S. attorney general), was likely Warren’s father. Robert Crittenden brought Warren to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1819, around the time Crittenden was appointed by President James Monroe as the first secretary of the Arkansas Territory. Crittenden and Warren lived at the present-day site of the Albert Pike Hotel on 7th Street, between Scott and Cumberland streets, in a large …

Washington, George (Lynching of)

In the spring of 1871, an African American named George Washington was lynched in Baxter County for allegedly assaulting a young girl. The girl’s father is variously referred to as James or George Calvin, with the surname sometimes given as Galvin. He lived on the White River south of Mountain Home (Baxter County). Public records reveal nothing about these people. The 1870 census lists no adult George or James Calvin or Galvin in Baxter County, or even in the state of Arkansas. The same is true in neighboring counties in Missouri. There was also no African American named George Washington listed in Baxter County. In his account of the lynching, Vincent Anderson quotes an article from the Baxter County Citizen, …

Watson, Hattie Rutherford

aka: Harriet Louise Gertrude Rutherford Watson
Harriet Louise Gertrude (Hattie) Rutherford Watson was an educator, librarian, and prominent member of the social and education communities in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). She and her husband, John Brown Watson, were activists for the African-American community during the early twentieth century. Hattie Rutherford was born November 23, 1885, in Rome, Georgia, as part of the black elite in the post-bellum era. She was the elder daughter of Samuel W. and Mary Anne Lemon Rutherford. Her father founded the National Benefit Life Insurance Company in 1898. Rutherford acquired an elementary education in the public schools of Atlanta and a high school diploma at Spelman Seminary. She completed her college work at Spelman College and was the only graduate from that …

Wiley, Bill (Lynching of)

In late August 1897, an African American man was lynched in Cleveland County for allegedly killing one man and wounding another at a picnic near Kendall’s mill. Newspaper accounts from the time are confusing as to his identity. Some identify him as Bill Wiley, others as Bill Wiley Douglass, Wiley Douglass, or Bill/Will/William Wyatt. All of these names have been used in various assembled lists of lynching events; public records provide no confirmation of any of them. For convenience, he will be referred to as “Wiley” in this article. The date of the lynching is also in question. The Arkansas Gazette gave three dates in three different articles:, Sunday, August 22; Monday, August 23; and Tuesday, August 24. The Pine …

Williams, Albert (Lynching of)

On April 1, 1883, a seventeen-year-old African American named Albert Williams was lynched in El Dorado (Union County) for allegedly attacking the young daughter of John Askew. The only Albert Williams in the area at the time was the son of El Dorado farm laborer Carter Williams and his wife, Lou. He was approximately twelve years old in 1880; contrary to reports, this would have made him fifteen at the time of the lynching. John Askew was also living in El Dorado in 1880. He was a lawyer, and his household included his wife, Sarah, and a number of children, among whom was a five-year-old daughter named Tennessee. Although Williams’s alleged victim is not named, it is probable that it …

Wilson, Tom (Lynching of)

In late February 1884, Tom (sometimes referred to as Thomas) Wilson, an African-American man, was lynched near Conway (Faulkner County) for allegedly attempting to assault a woman identified only as Mrs. Griffy. Several other newspaper accounts identify her husband as William Griffy. No further information is available on either Wilson or the Griffy family in Faulkner County. According to a report published in the Arkansas Gazette on February 21, the lynching had occurred “several days since.” According to the Gazette and several other national newspapers, including the Little Falls Transcript, William Griffy was away from his farm overnight when Wilson entered the house and attempted to assault Mrs. Griffy. She screamed and attacked him with a fire shovel, whereupon he …

Wynne Lynching of 1892

On June 29, 1892, an unidentified African-American man was apparently lynched in Wynne (Cross County) for allegedly assaulting a young girl. Although the New York Sun reported that the girl was black and that the mob was made up of African Americans, the Forrest City Times told a slightly different story. According to the Times, passengers traveling south on the Iron Mountain Railroad reported the “loss” of an African-American man in Wynne on the night of the June 29. The unidentified black man had allegedly tried to assault a six-year-old white girl that morning. The two were found in a closet, and the girl reported what had happened to her. The man was jailed, but the next morning the doors …