Early Twentieth Century

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Entry Category: Early Twentieth Century

Act 258 of 1909

aka: Toney Bill to Prevent Lynching
Act 258 of 1909 was a law intended to prevent citizens from engaging in lynching. It was not, strictly speaking, a piece of anti-lynching legislation, as it imposed no punishment for the crime of lynching. Instead, it aimed to expedite trials relating to particular crimes in order to render what would likely be a death penalty verdict to mollify the local population enough that they would not take the law into their own hands. Such a law as Act 258 is indicative of the connection between lynching and the modern death penalty observed by some scholars; as Michael J. Pfeifer noted in his 2011 book, The Roots of Rough Justice: Origins of American Lynching, legislators across the nation “reshaped the …

Argenta Race Riot of 1906

aka: Lynching of Homer G. Blackman
Ignited by the slayings of two black men in separate incidents the previous month, racial animosity flared up in Argenta (now North Little Rock in Pulaski County) in early October 1906, leading to the violent deaths of three more men over four days, including the lynching of Homer G. Blackman, a black restaurateur. Local authorities imposed martial law and provided additional officers in an effort to quell hostilities. However, before order was restored, half a block of commercial buildings on East Washington Avenue burned down, two African-American residences went up in flames, and scores of black families temporarily left the city as armed men roamed the streets. The two major newspapers in Little Rock, the Arkansas Gazette and the Arkansas …

Arkansas “Scottsboro” Case

aka: Bubbles Clayton and James X. Caruthers (Trial and Execution of)
aka: Caruthers, James X., and Bubbles Clayton (Trial and Execution of)
The trial and conviction of African-American farm laborers Bubbles Clayton and James X. Caruthers for the rape of a white woman, Virgie Terry, in Mississippi County drew national attention to the Arkansas criminal justice system and became widely known as the Arkansas “Scottsboro” Case. Clayton, age twenty-one, and Caruthers, age nineteen, were arrested at Blytheville (Mississippi County) in January 1935 and charged as suspects in the armed robberies of couples in parked cars. Their arrest followed an incident in which Sheriff Clarence Wilson was injured in an attempted robbery while in a parked car near the Blytheville country club. Taken from the county jail by authorities on pretense of protection from mob violence, the two men were beaten with rubber …

Arkansas Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association

The Arkansas Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association (AMDPA) was founded in 1893 by a group of African-American medical professionals. Barred from joining local white medical societies and the American Medical Association (AMA), black medical professionals organized their own local associations and national organization. Trained medical providers began moving into the Arkansas Territory around 1820. In the early 1880s, and in concert with trends in other states, several black physicians organized their own “Colored Medical Association.” These medical professionals were not only interested in the mutual recognition and fraternity offered by the organization; they were also genuinely concerned about the poor state of health among African Americans and the failure of white physicians to adequately address these healthcare needs. In 1893, …

Arkansas Negro Democratic Association (ANDA)

The Arkansas Negro Democratic Association (ANDA) was founded in 1928 by Little Rock (Pulaski County) physician John Marshall Robinson, who served as president until 1952, and a number of other prominent black professionals. Between 1928 and 1952, ANDA was the leading voice of black Arkansas Democrats in the state. Although ANDA tackled a number of issues concerned with racial discrimination, its principal focus was on winning the right for black citizens to participate in the activities of the Arkansas Democratic Party, especially its primary elections. In Arkansas, the payment of a one-dollar poll tax qualified a person to vote, irrespective of race. But exclusion from state Democratic Party primary elections significantly disfranchised black voters since that party dominated state politics. …

Bailey, George (Lynching of)

Sometime during the night of December 19–20, 1909, an African-American man named George Bailey was shot to death by a mob while he was housed in the jail at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). Although whites outnumbered blacks approximately two to one in Prairie County at that time, there was already racial animus in the area because a few days earlier an unknown African-American man had reportedly attacked a white man who was sleeping in a boxcar nearby. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the attack was an attempted robbery, and the attacker almost cut the victim’s throat: “At the time a party was organized to lynch the negro, but cooler counsel prevailed and the would-be lynchers were dissuaded from their purpose.” …

Banks, Alfred

Alfred (Alf) Banks was one of twelve African-American men accused of murder following the Elaine Massacre of 1919. After brief trials, the so-called Elaine Twelve—six who became known as the Moore defendants and six (including Banks) who became known as the Ware defendants—were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Ultimately, the Ware defendants were freed by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1923; after numerous legal efforts, the Moore defendants were released in 1925. There are conflicting dates as to when Alfred Banks Jr. was born. The 1930 census indicates 1895, his World War I draft registration card shows 1897, and his Missouri death certificate gives 1899. Whatever the year, Banks was born on either August 23 or 24 …

Barnett, John (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 …

Blakely, Joe (Lynching of)

On May 29, 1909, African-American man Sam Blakely—with his brother Joe Blakely as an accessory—allegedly murdered deputy sheriff Walter Cain in Portland (Ashley County). Sam briefly escaped, and Joe was eventually lynched for his role in the murder. The incident was covered by numerous newspapers across the country, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Tribune. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the difficulty started when a white farmer named Bud Harper killed Sam Blakely’s dog. The two Blakely brothers then went to Harper’s home, assaulting him “in his own yard, abusing him while he held Mr. Harper under gun cover, backed up by Joe.” Warrants were sworn out against the African-American brothers for disturbing the peace, and Cain …

Blazes, Albert (Lynching of)

aka: Albert Blades (Lynching of)
In May 1926, an African-American man named Albert Blazes (sometimes referred to as Blades) was taken from authorities in Wilson (Mississippi County) and lynched for allegedly attacking a white girl. The story was covered both nationally and internationally, appearing in Time magazine and meriting a front-page illustration in Le Petit Journal, published in Paris, France. There is no information on the identity of either the girl or the alleged perpetrator. According to the May 27, 1926, Arkansas Gazette, a group of Wilson school children were on an outing when three girls became separated from their classmates. Albert Blazes (whose age is reported in various sources from nineteen to twenty-two) pursued them; two of them ran away, but one girl tripped, …

Bonanza Race War of 1904

The Bonanza Race War of 1904 was a race riot/labor war that occurred in the coal-mining city of Bonanza (Sebastian County) and resulted in the expulsion of African Americans from the city following several days of violence. The event is indicative of a general antipathy toward black labor in the coal mines of western Arkansas, and, by the end of the decade, African Americans could reportedly be found in only two mining communities, having been driven from the rest. Bonanza was a coal-mining city even before its incorporation in 1898. Central Coal and Coke Company operated the only three mines there, and the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway (Frisco) provided easy transportation, both for coal and other goods and for travelers. …

Briggs, Clinton (Lynching of)

Clinton Briggs, a twenty-six-year-old soldier who had just returned to Star City (Lincoln County) after serving in the U.S. Army during World War I, was lynched on September 1, 1919, after allegedly insulting a young white woman. According to the 1910 census, eighteen-year-old Briggs was living on a rented farm in Bartholomew Township, Lincoln County, with his parents, Sandy and Catherine Briggs. His father was a farmer, and Clinton was listed as a laborer. Clinton could both read and write, although he had not attended school. On June 5, 1917, he registered for the draft. On his draft registration, he stated that he was working for a farmer named Alex Dutton. Briggs served in the army from June 19, 1918, …

Brown, Frank (Lynching of)

On September 22, 1905, an African-American man named Frank Brown was hanged at Conway (Faulkner County) for an alleged assault on Arlena Lawrence and her two young sons, resulting in the death of the older son, Elzey. Contrary to some sources, this was not the only lynching in Faulkner County. Two people had been lynched previously in the county: Thomas Wilson, an African American, in 1884 and Albert England, a white man, in 1895. According to Robert Meriwether’s account of the lynching, Lawrence’s age was “about 35,” and it was reported that she had been raised near Greenbrier (Faulkner County) with the maiden name of Butcher. There is no one named Arlena Lawrence in either the 1900 or 1910 censuses …

Carter, John (Lynching of)

In early May 1927, Little Rock (Pulaski County) experienced a wave of mob violence surrounding the lynching of an African American named John Carter. This lynching and the rioting that followed is one of the most notorious incidents of racial violence in the state’s history. This event reveals much about the history of race relations in Little Rock, as well as the state’s struggle with its national image. The episode began on April 30, 1927, when the dead body of a twelve-year-old white girl named Floella McDonald was discovered by a janitor in the belfry of the First Presbyterian Church in Little Rock. The next afternoon, police arrested the janitor and his seventeen-year-old mulatto son, Lonnie Dixon, for the murder. …

Catcher Race Riot of 1923

The December 28, 1923, assault and murder of a white woman in the Catcher community in Crawford County quickly ignited a firestorm of racial hatred that, within the span of a few days, exploded into the murder of an innocent black man, charges of night riding being leveled against eleven African Americans, and the exodus of all black families from Catcher, numbering at least forty. Two African-American men were sentenced to death and executed in relation to the murder, while a third was given life in prison, following trials that included dubious evidence offered by the prosecution. From the days of slavery, the township in which Catcher is situated, four miles southeast of Van Buren (Crawford County) in cotton-producing river …

Cates, Sam (Lynching of)

On September 12, 1917, a twenty-five-year-old African-American man named Sam Cates was lynched near England (Lonoke County) for allegedly harassing white girls and young women, including allegedly sending an improper note to the sister of Claude Clay. The exact identity of Sam Cates remains uncertain. According to marriage records, there were two men by the same or similar names living in Lonoke County around this time, although neither have ages exactly matching twenty-five in 1917. On July 3, 1910, twenty-one-year-old Sammie Kates married Mary Mathews (born around 1891) in England (which lies in the center of Lonoke County’s Gum Woods Township). According to 1910 census records, there was an African-American woman named Mary Matthews (born around 1893) living with her …

Cotter Expulsion of 1906

In 1906, white residents of Cotter (Baxter County) expelled all of the town’s African-American population, save for a single family of three people. (The population had not been great.) Although the precipitating event was a fight between two black men, local newspapers had been predicting, and even advocating for, such an expulsion long before that fracas occurred. Afterward, Cotter remained a “sundown town.” The area that is now Baxter County had black residents before the Civil War. For example, Orrin L. Dodd, located in what is now Mountain Home (Baxter County), owned thirty slaves by the 1860 census. Too, there was a small free black population nearby in Marion County. In 1880, the first census conducted after Baxter County’s creation showed …

Davis, Anthony (Lynching of)

Anthony Davis, an African-American man, was lynched in Texarkana (Miller County) on October 9, 1906, reportedly by other local black residents. The alleged crime was the assault of a teenaged girl. Davis was described in news reports as a “negro hack driver” (driver of a hackney carriage for hire) who was forty years old and had a wife and three children. A week before his murder, he was arrested for reportedly assaulting a “fifteen-year-old mulatto girl,” according to the Arkansas Gazette, though national newspapers placed her age at sixteen. The unnamed girl was en route from Baxter (Drew County) to Crockett, Texas, and had asked Davis to ferry her from one depot to another. However, he drove her outside the …

Davis, Howard (Lynching of)

On October 25, 1914, a mob in Newport (Jackson County) took an African-American man named Howard Davis from county authorities and hanged him for allegedly murdering Marshal James S. Payne. Davis was supposedly assisted in the murder by an accomplice, John Woodard. Some national reporting indicates that there may have been at least one more accomplice. While there is no information available on Davis or Woodard, or on Bob Griffin, to whose house Davis fled after the shooting, Payne was apparently a popular resident of Newport. He was forty-three years old at the time of these events and had a wife and five children. Born in Missouri in 1871, he married Parlee Belford in 1892, and by 1900 they were …

Dean, Arthur (Lynching of)

On September 9, 1911, a twenty-three-year-old African-American man named Arthur Dean was lynched in Augusta (Woodruff County) for a crime spree that ended in the alleged murder of a white woman named Mrs. Albert Vaughan. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Dean had earlier been convicted of assault and had been released from the penitentiary two weeks before the crime spree. On the morning of September 8, he went to the home of Tom Ligon, an African-American farmer who lived five miles east of Augusta. This was perhaps Thomas Ligon, listed on the 1920 census as a tenant farmer living in Augusta with his wife, Mary, and six children aged thirteen and under. While at Ligon’s home, Arthur Dean encountered an …

Dodd, Frank (Lynching of)

Frank Dodd was lynched in DeWitt (Arkansas County) on October 8, 1916, by a mob of about 300. He had reportedly insulted two white women the previous day. Dodd was the second man taken from the jail at DeWitt and lynched in as many months, though the previous mob had taken its victim to Stuttgart (Arkansas County) to be murdered. The exact identity of Dodd is difficult to determine, however. In the 1910 census, there is an African-American man named Frank Dodd living in Drew County with his wife, Isabella, but by the following census year she is living with her family and going by her maiden name; he apparently disappears from the record. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Dodd …

El Dorado Race Riot of 1910

The El Dorado Race Riot that began on February 26, 1910, was reportedly sparked by a gun battle between an unidentified African-American man and three white men—Deputy Sheriff H. E. Reynolds, Oscar P. Reynolds, and Roscoe Montgomery—outside of an El Dorado (Union County) barbershop owned by black businessman Oscar “China Parker” Warren. Newspaper accounts vary widely as to the cause of the altercation, though most reports agree that there was some type of verbal interaction between the unidentified black man and the group of white men, in which the former reportedly spoke to the white men in a “very insolent manner.” The Texarkana Courier reported that “one of the white men brushed against the black man, who said in response, …

Elaine Massacre of 1919

aka: Elaine Race Riot of 1919
aka: Elaine Race Massacre
The Elaine Massacre was by far the deadliest racial confrontation in Arkansas history and possibly the bloodiest racial conflict in the history of the United States. While its deepest roots lay in the state’s commitment to white supremacy, the events in Elaine (Phillips County) stemmed from tense race relations and growing concerns about labor unions. A shooting incident that occurred at a meeting of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union escalated into mob violence on the part of the white people in Elaine and surrounding areas. Although the exact number is unknown, estimates of the number of African Americans killed by whites range into the hundreds; five white people lost their lives. The conflict began on the night of September 30, 1919, …

Ellison, Clyde (Lynching of)

On June 13, 1919, Clyde Ellison was lynched at Star City (Lincoln County) for allegedly assaulting the daughter of a local farmer. Little is known about Clyde Ellison’s background. When he registered for the World War I draft on October 25, 1918, he was living in Florence (Drew County) and working for farmer Ernest Lytle. He was unable to give his date of birth and listed no close relatives. By June 1919, Ellison was living near Star City. According to an article in the Arkansas Gazette, it was alleged that he attempted to assault eighteen-year-old Iselle Bennett, who lived three miles from Star City. She was alone at the family home; her parents were out, and all of the hands …

Fleming, Sam (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 …

Flemming, Owen (Lynching of)

On June 8, 1927, a mob murdered Owen Flemming, an African-American man, near Mellwood (Phillips County). At the time of the lynching, Arkansas was experiencing unprecedented flooding. The Flood of 1927 remains the most destructive in Arkansas history, covering about 6,600 square miles and inundating thirty-six of the state’s seventy-five counties. Many black citizens who lived along the Mississippi River and other flooding waterways were forced to work on the levees, often at gunpoint. One of these forced workers was Owen Flemming (or Fleming, according to some accounts). There is little information available about Flemming, but he is described in several articles as a “prominent black man.” According to the Arkansas Gazette, however, Flemming had a bad reputation. Officials at …

Flowers, Beulah Lee Sampson

Beulah Lee Sampson Flowers was an African-American educator, community leader, political activist, and businesswoman who was also a mentor to Maya Angelou. Beulah Sampson was born on January 10, 1883, in Hempstead County, Arkansas. Her parents, John Sampson Sr. and Frances Johnson Sampson, were ex-slaves and farmers who lived in the Ozan and Mine Creek townships of Hempstead County. According to the Sampson-Flowers oral tradition, Beulah was the youngest child of approximately twenty-three full and half siblings. Family members debate the exact number of her siblings. She received a public school education in Hempstead County and attended Bowen Seminary in Clow (Hempstead County). Sampson completed her education at Williams Industrial College, a vocational training school for African Americans, in Little …

Fox, Joseph (Joe)

Joseph (Joe) Fox was one of twelve African-American men accused of murder following the Elaine Massacre of 1919. After brief trials, the so-called Elaine Twelve—six who became known as the Moore defendants and six (including Fox) who became known as the Ware defendants—were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Ultimately, the Ware defendants were freed by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1923; after numerous legal efforts, the Moore defendants were released in 1925. Joe Fox was born on October 8, 1897, in Louisiana to Sides Fox and Annie Fox. By the 1910 census, the twelve-year-old lived with his parents as an only child in East Carroll, Louisiana. He worked with his parents on the farm as a sharecropper. …

Fox, Warren (Lynching of)

On July 9, 1915, an African-American man named Warren Fox was lynched in Crittenden County for allegedly murdering a white man named John Millett. There is almost no information available on the principals in this incident. The Arkansas Gazette identified Millett as a “Frenchman and gardener” who worked for G. W. Sims on his plantation at the Crittenden county community of Kanema. Although the Gazette noted that Millett had previously been in Caruthersville, Missouri, and Johnson City, Illinois, he is not listed in census records for Arkansas, Missouri, or Illinois. Similarly, there is no record of an appropriate Warren Fox in Arkansas census records. George W. Sims, however, is well known. He owned extensive property in Crittenden County and worked …

Franklin, Monroe (Lynching of)

On August 19, 1912, an African-American man named Monroe Franklin was hanged in Russellville (Pope County) for an alleged attack on an unidentified white woman. Officials believed that a second black man, Pet (sometimes referred to as Pete or Pit) Grey, was also involved. Although the Arkansas Democrat described the lynching as the first in Pope County, research indicates that it was at least the third. John Hogan was lynched there in 1875, followed by Presley Oats in 1897. There is some possible information available on Franklin and Grey. Newspapers reported that Franklin had recently come into the area from Oklahoma. In 1910, there was a twenty-nine-year-old African American named M. F. Franklin living in Bearden Township, Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, …

Gibson, J. W. (Murder of)

On December 23, 1920, in what one newspaper called “One of the most dreadful tragedies that the Negroes of the City of Helena has [sic] ever been called on to witness,” Professor J. W. Gibson was killed by a night watchman in Helena (Phillips County). Depending on how the word “lynching” is interpreted, this may have been an incident of police brutality, or Professor Gibson may in fact have been lynched. The Arkansas Gazette filed no report on Gibson’s death. The only national coverage appears to be a rather belated report in the Dallas Express, an African-American newspaper published in Texas. Not much is known about Gibson. According to the Express, not only did Gibson teach in Helena, but he …