Jim Crow Violence: Examples of Race Riots and Lynchings, 1911-1919(AL-CA) African American, Arrests, Black, Color, Court, Crowd, Discrimination, Fire, Great Migration, Jail, Jobs, Mobs, Negro, Neighborhood, Police, Rape, Segregation, Soldiers, South, Supremacy, Town, White

Jim Crow Violence: Examples of Race Riots and Lynchings, 1911-1919(AL-CA) [The editors of Americans All ] (c.1911 - c.1919) African American, Arrests, Black, Color, Court, Crowd, Discrimination, Fire, Great Migration, Jail, Jobs, Mobs, Negro, Neighborhood, Police, Rape, Segregation, Soldiers, South, Supremacy, Town, White

Note: Each “Jim Crow Violence” story cannot exceed 2,000 words, and the timeframes for the stories are determined by this limitation. Each of the six stories has a different photograph collection. Each photograph is linked to the text via a number in [bold brackets] and, where possible, the text and the photograph appear on the same page.

Race Riots and Lynchings

1911 (Okemah, Okfuskee County, Oklahoma): Laura and her 14-year-old son, L.D. (Lawrence) Nelson, were in jail because L.D. had been accused of killing Okemah's deputy sheriff George Loney during a search of the Nelsons' farm for a stolen cow. L.D. and Laura were both charged with murder; Laura because she allegedly grabbed the gun first. Her husband, Austin, pleaded guilty to larceny and was sent to the relative safety of the state prison in McAlester, while his wife and son were held in the Okemah county jail until their trial. Two weeks later, they were seized from their cells by a group of up to 40 white men, reportedly including Charley Guthrie, father of the folk singer Woody Guthrie. The Associated Press reported that Laura was raped. She and L.D. were then hanged [8] from a bridge over the North Canadian River. Sightseers gathered on the bridge on the morning of the lynching. George Henry Farnum, the owner of Okemah's only photography studio, took photographs, which were distributed as postcards, a common practice at the time. Although district Judge Caruthers convened a grand jury, the killers were never identified. In his instructions to the jury, he said, "The people of the state have said by recently adopted constitutional provision that the race to which the unfortunate victims belonged should in large measure be divorced from participation in our political contests, because of their known racial inferiority and their dependent credulity, which very characteristic made them the mere tool of the designing and cunning. It is well known that I heartily concur in this constitutional provision of the people's will. The more then, does the duty devolve upon us of a superior race and of greater intelligence, to protect this weaker race from unjustifiable and lawless attacks." Four of Farnum's photographs are known to have survived—two spectator scenes and one close-up view each of L.D. and Laura. The images of Laura Nelson are the only known surviving photographs of a Black female lynching victim.

1912 (Detroit, Michigan): The Great Migration brought thousands of Black Southerners to the North faster than the region could assimilate them. They were confronted with discrimination, socially sanctioned segregation, and racial violence born of white resistance. The majority who went to Michigan settled in Detroit to work in the auto industry, which was willing to hire black workers for lower wages. The NAACP founded a branch there in 1912. During this year, the Ku Klux Klan to set up a chapter in Detroit, segregation existed in Eastern High School, and a drug store soda fountain counter refused to serve Black customers.

1912 (Hamilton, Georgia): Norman Hadley, well-to-do young white farmer, was sitting in his home when he was killed by a shot was fired through a window. He was known to have sexually harassed and abused Black girls and women. Four Black tenants, Belle (Burrell?) Hathaway, John Moore, Eugene Hamming (Harrington?) and “Dusty” Cruthfield (a woman), were arrested and charged with the crime. The minister, Hardaway, had spoken out about the behavior of Hadley from the pulpit. The four were arrested with no evidence. They were soon forcibly removed from jail and hanged from an ancient oak tree next to the outdoor baptismal font beside the Friendship Baptist Church, which had been built just after the Civil War by people freed from slavery.

1915 (Atlanta, Georgia): Blacks were not the only race that faced racial discrimination. Leo Max Frank, [20] a factory superintendent of the American Pencil Company, was convicted in 1913 of the murder of a 13-year-old employee, Mary Phagan. His trial, conviction and appeals attracted national attention, and many reporters deemed the conviction a travesty. Within Georgia, this outside criticism fueled antisemitism and hatred toward Frank. On August 16, he was kidnapped from prison by a group of armed men, and lynched at Marietta, Mary Phagan's hometown, the next morning. His lynching, in response to the commutation of his death sentence, became the focus of social, regional, political, and racial concerns. The new governor vowed to punish the lynchers, including prominent Marietta citizens, but nobody was charged. Today, the consensus of researchers on the subject holds that Frank was wrongly convicted and Jim Conley, a janitor at the factory, was likely the actual murderer.

1916 (Waco, TX): Jesse Washington was an African-American 17-year-old farmhand who was lynched in the county seat on May 15, in what became a well-known example of racially motivated lynching. Washington was convicted of raping and murdering Lucy Fryer, the wife of his white employer in rural Robinson, Texas. He was chained by his neck and dragged out of the county court by observers. He was then paraded through the street, all while being stabbed and beaten, before being held down and castrated. He was then lynched [25] in front of Waco's city hall.

1917 (East St. Louis, Missouri): Several thousand Blacks seeking employment opportunities moved to East St. Louis, historically a white city, from the South during World War. On July 1, a black man was rumored to have killed a white man. Anti-black violence followed, with whites shooting, beating, and lynching Blacks. Arson against African-American homes also occurred. The violence continued for a week. Estimates of deaths range from 40 to 200 Blacks. In addition, some 6,000 Blacks fled East St. Louis. [36]  [39]

1917 (Houston, Texas): The Camp Logan Mutiny (also called the Houston Riot of 1917) occurred on 23 August. It was a mutiny and riot by 156 soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry – a unit of the famed Buffalo Soldiers. The riot occurred after members of the Houston Police Department harassed members of the local Black community and the Black soldiers who attempted to intervene were also violently accosted. The Black soldiers mutinied and marched on Houston, shooting and killing many people in a single night. Civilians, policemen, and four soldiers were also killed from friendly fire; Sergeant Vida Henry, who led the mutineers, died by suicide. This was the only race riot in U.S. history where more whites than Blacks were killed, and it also resulted in both the largest murder trial and largest courts martial [44] for mutiny in U.S. history. Nineteen were executed, and 41 were sentenced to life imprisonment.

1917 (Chester, Pennsylvania): Racial tensions in Chester increased greatly during the World War I industrial boom due to white hostility toward the large influx of southern Blacks who moved North as part of the Late in the evening of July 24, 1917, a black man named Arthur Thomas was walking with his female companion and another black couple through a predominantly white neighborhood. Thomas had words with a white man named William McKinney and it escalated into a fistfight. McKinney was stabbed multiple times during the fight and died soon afterwards. On July 25, an enraged mob of whites marched through Chester's black neighborhoods which initiated violent street battles that continued for four days. There were more than 360 arrests.