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Mass Terror Against Blacks in America — What Was It Like?: Reprints of Newspaper Articles From the Time


Will Brown (left) after being killed, mutilated and burned outside a courthouse in Omaha on September 28, 1919. Laura Nelson (right) was lynched on May 25, 1911 in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma. Ms. Nelson was lynched along with her
son. They were hung together from a local bridge. Among the killers of Ms. Nelson and her son was Charley Guthrie,
the father of famed folk singer Woody Guthrie. This photograph of her lynching was sold on postcards.


By Ronald David Jackson
A new study shows that almost 4000 African Americans were lynched during a 73 year period in America's South ending in 1950. Clearly, this is an undercount of racial killings since outright murders of blacks by whites (the kind that didn't involve hanging) are not included in this study. You can watch an interview with Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative which conducted the study, here.

Public torture, lynching, and burnings was a gruesome social celebration for many whites and photographs from lynchings were often published as postcards and sold in stores across the United States. Racists looked for any reason to lynch blacks, often killing them for "infractions" as minor as bumping into whites while rushing for a train, daring to wear a military uniform, or for not addressing whites as "Mr." or "Mrs." One black woman was even lynched for knocking on the front door of a white-owned home when social protocol demanded African Americans should only approach the back door. Hundreds of Mexican Americans were also lynched, often for things as minor as speaking Spanish.

Newspaper Publications and Lynchings
What follows are newspaper items from an era when blacks faced mass terror throughout America. These items were captured more or less at random from a newspaper database maintained by the Library of Congress.  Some of the articles were published in black-owned publications.

The first thing I noticed about many of these articles is that lynchings of blacks was so commonplace that in most cases the article didn't even warrant a big headline and more than just a few sentences. Therefore, some readers might even find it difficult to find the item on the page. I deliberately did not highlight the articles on any of the pages so that readers will get some sense of how un-important lynchings were to most whites at the time.

You will notice that blacks were being lynched for such "major" offenses as the alleged killing a cow or a horse. Many of the articles were written in a cheerful style, as lynchings were often festive occasions for the whites in attendance; and many articles were written in a dry "matter of fact" style, as if lynchings were an ordinary everyday occurrence. In many cases, the lynchings were of blacks who "didn't know their place." For example, blacks were being lynched simply because they were successful businesspersons, or had the audacity to hit back when struck by a white person.

The reason given for many of the lynchings was "assault" (rape) or "attempted assault" of a white woman.  Common sense suggests that in the vast majority of cases this was merely a convenient excuse that helped to "justify" the murder in the minds of the white public. In those days black men could be lynched for merely looking at a white woman. So to suggest that thousands of black men were running around the country assaulting white women is simply absurd, especially given the fact that the "black rapist" could have "safely" raped a black woman in a black community and gotten away with it — since white society at the time had so little concern for the well-being of black women or the goings on within the black community.

The Deep South: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina,
Florida.
Of particular note is the fact that many lynchings took place outside of the so-called "Deep South", which blows away the myth that lynchings were a  Southern phenomenon only. The new study on lynchings calculates that almost 4,000 blacks were lynched.  This may be a extremely conservative estimate, because a search of the Library of Congress' newspaper database using the search terms "Negro" and "lynched" returned 33,745 items. We can assume, however, that in some cases several different newspapers may have reported on the same incident.

The Shame of America
The Evening Star, November 23, 1922



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Damnable White Whelps
Cayton's Weekly, June 08, 1918



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The Appeal on Racism and Lynching
December 02, 1922



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Race War Probable
The Day Book. (Chicago, Ill.), September 11, 1912



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Deluth - The Lynching of Three Negroes
Cayton's Weekly, August 28, 1920



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Lynching Every 48 Hours After Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill Death
The Appeal, December 30, 1922


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A Southern Pastime - Lynching
The Colored American, February 03, 1900



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The Wets' Side Of It - Blacks Running From South to Escape Lynching
The Day Book, February 09, 1917



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The Women's Anti-Lynching Crusade
The Dallas Express, 11 November 11, 1922



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While Guards Slept Negro Was Lynched
The Times Dispatch, October 22, 1906



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An Illinois Mob Lynch A Negro and Burn Him
The Butler Weekly Times, July 30, 1903



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Make Hanging A Picnic - Lynching in Oklahoma
The Day Book (Chicago, Ill.), August, 07, 1915



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Joplin Again Quiet After an Exciting Necktie Party
The Guthrie Daily Leader, April 16, 1903



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Negro's Body Sent Adrift
The Ward County Independent, April 10, 1913



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A Negro Lynched
The Clay City Times, November 20, 1902



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Innocent Negro Hung
The Day Book, January 25, 1915



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Negro Lynched Near Newberry
The Laurens Advertiser, November 27, 1912



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Negro Taken From Sheriff and Lynched By Mob
The Day Book, June 15, 1915



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Negro Lynched for Killing Cow
The Bemidji Daily Pioneer, March 20, 1906



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Another Negro Lynched
The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, October 02, 1903



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Negro Lynched
The Daily Ardmoreite (Ardmore, Okla.), July 8, 1900



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Reward Offered For Every Negro Lynched
Palestine Daily Herald (Palestine, Tex.), August 18, 1906



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Riot Victims Sue City
The River Press (Fort Benton, Mont.), September 02, 1908



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Mob Lynched A Negro Who Killed A Horse
Daily Press, May 09, 1906



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One Hundred Men Lynched Negro Woman At Wagoner
The Tulsa Star, April 04, 1914



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Mob Takes Negro From Jail Hangs and Shoots Him -
For Cursing A Shopkeeper
The Laurens Advertiser, October 25, 1916



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Negro Lynched in Mississippi for Striking White Man
The Lexington Dispatch, November 15, 1911



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Wrong Man Lynched - Real Offender Found
The Minneapolis Journal, September 09, 1904



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A Negro Lynched - Uprising Threatened
The Evening Bulletin, October 25, 1904



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Negro Lynched in Tennesse - Accused of Larceny
Daily Press, March 09, 1905



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One Negro Lynched for Disorderly Conduct
Daily Press (Newport News, Va.), September 25, 1906



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Negro is Lynched - Criticized How White Women Dressed
The Bemidji Daily Pioneer, November 12, 1915



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Negro Lynched by 2,000 Men
The Tacoma Times (Tacoma, Wash.), 03 March 1910

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