Early Twentieth Century

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Entries - Entry Category: Early Twentieth Century - Starting with C

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 …

Coleman, Ed “Sweat”

Ed Coleman was one of twelve African-American men accused of murder and sentenced to death following the Elaine Massacre of 1919; he was part of the U.S. Supreme Court case of Moore v. Dempsey. After brief trials, the so-called Elaine Twelve—six who became known as the Moore defendants and six 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, including Coleman, were released in 1925. Little is known about Ed Coleman’s early life. He was born in Arkansas around 1855, likely in slavery, to Robert Coleman and Jane Kelley. Coleman next shows up in …

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 …

Crossett Lynching of 1904

An unknown African-American man was lynched near Crossett (Ashley County) on September 4, 1904, for having allegedly “attempted to assault two white girls.” The names of none of the parties are mentioned in newspaper reports. The reported assault occurred on the night of Saturday, September 3, at a place called the Bonham plantation, some thirty-five miles from Crossett. The following day, according to the Arkansas Gazette, “a posse of farmers” captured the suspect, apparently within Crossett, and took him to “a place about three miles from Crossett and strung him to a tree, after which the mob vented its rage by riddling the body with bullets.” Fifteen minutes after the murder, the mob dispersed. In reference to the mob, the …