WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH: THE LYNCHING OF AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN
By Marilyn Kai Jewett
Many of us who are students of history know about the thousands of Black men who were lynched in this nation. However, most don’t know about the many African American women who were also lynched. Last year, I came across a website dedicated to Henrietta Vinton Davis, a prominent and fearless leader in Marcus Garveys’ Universal
Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The website included a listing of documented cases of African American women who had been lynched between 1870 and 1957. The website provides documented information on these women – their names, dates, places, the reason they were lynched and with whom they were lynched. Reading this made me angry and brought tears to my eyes. Reading the details of these lynchings is hard and painful, but necessary for those who want to know the truth. This is part of our history — Amerikkkan history – world history — that must be taught to our children and grandchildren. They will not learn this in school. It’s up to us to teach them the true history of the U.S. that proclaims that it’s “one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.” Right.
These “women,” many of whom were children, were not just lynched — they were raped and tortured before being hung, shot or burned by mobs of white men. Now days, African Americans ostracize Black people who are Republican. However, the first three women on the list – Mrs. John Simes lynched in 1870 in Henry County, Kentucky and Mrs. Hawkins and her daughter, lynched in 1872 in Fayette County, Kentucky, were all murdered for being Republicans!
Many of these women were lynched for standing up for themselves and their families. If their husband or son was accused of a crime and couldn’t be found, the females in the family were lynched. Entire families, including the children were lynched together. Some were lynched merely because they were Black. Others were lynched because they dared to have a dispute with a white person.
Hannah Kearse was lynched in 1895 in Colleton, South Carolina with her mother and son for supposedly stealing a bible. Jennie McCall was lynched in 1903 in Hamilton, Florida by mistake! Mercy Hall was lynched in 1922 in Oklahoma City for strike activity. Eliza Bryant was lynched May 25, 1926 in Duplin, North Carolina for having the nerve to be successful. The last sister on the list, Mrs. Frank Clay, was lynched November 18, 1957 in Henderson, North Carolina for having a dispute with a white person. I was 3 years-old in 1957.
I’m sure most people don’t know about these women, but we must never forget women like pregnant Mary Turner who was lynched May 17, 1918 in Brooks County, Georgia to teach her a lesson. After her husband was lynched, Mary threatened to have those who lynched him arrested. She fled, but the mob pursued her and found her the next morning. She was eight months pregnant when the mob of several hundred took her to a stream, tied her ankles together and hung her from a tree upside down. She was doused with gasoline and set on fire. One of the mob took a knife and split open her womb so that her unborn baby fell to the ground. The baby’s head was then crushed under the heels of her murderers. But, that wasn’t enough for the demonic mob. They finished Mary off by riddling her body with bullets – to teach her a lesson.
Seventeen year-old Marie Scott was lynched on March 31, 1914 in Wagoner County, Oklahoma by a white mob of at least a dozen males. Two drunken white men had broken into her house as she was dressing and raped her. Her brother heard her screams for help, kicked down the door, killed one assailant and fled. Unable to find her brother, the mob lynched Marie. After she was arrested, the mob took Marie from jail, threw a rope over her head as she screamed and hung her from a telephone pole.
Sisters Alma, 16 and Maggie Howze (House) 20, were both pregnant by Dr. E. L. Johnston, a married, white dentist who used them both as his sex slaves, when beaten and hung in 1918 from a bridge near Shutaba, Mississippi for allegedly killing him. Alma was close to giving birth when lynched. Eyewitnesses at her burial said that that the movements of her unborn baby could be detected.
Laura Nelson was accused of murdering a sheriff who had supposedly discovered stolen goods in her house. She was lynched with her 15 year-old son in 1911 in Okemah, Oklahoma. Laura and her son were taken from jail, dragged six miles to the Canadian River, where she was raped by the mob before she and her son were hung from a bridge.
Ann Barksdale (Ann Bostwick) was lynched in Pinehurst, Georgia on June 24, 1912 for supposedly killing her white, female employer. There was no trial and no statement was taken from Ann who authorities claimed had mental issues and should have been placed in a hospital. The mob was in a festive mood when they placed her in a car with a rope around her neck and the other end tied to a tree limb. Her murderers drove at a high speed until she was strangled to death. To make sure she was dead, the mob shot her eyes out and riddled her body with so many bullets that she was “cut in two.”
These lynchings are a part of the “African Holocaust – the Maafa” that some folks, including some Negroes, want us to forget. The Maafa included the Middle Passage, 300+ years of chattel slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow/De Facto segregation and continues to this day. Some of those people – African American and white — who witnessed these lynchings as children are still around.
These African American women, men and children were lynched with the cooperation of local law enforcement – many of whom were leaders of the local Ku Klux Klan. However, there’s a different kind of lynch mob in 21st Century Amerikkka. People of African descent are still being lynched by those who uphold this tainted, blood-stained system – the police, the courts, politicians who make the laws and yes, the media. So when you speak of the modern day lynchings of Brandon Tate-Brown, Phil Africa, Michael Brown, Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant and the countless men of African descent whose lives were unlawfully taken by police and the judicial system, remember our sisters who were brutally lynched by the mob.
Much thanks and praises to the scholars who researched and uncovered this important history. Thanks and continued blessings also to Brother Nnamdi Azikiwe who posted the information on his website. For more information on these lynchings, go to https://henriettavintondavis.wordpress.com/2009/07/22/recorded/.
Once again, I am asking all spiritually-conscious women and men of African descent to join me 3:00PM, Sunday, March 29 at Congo (Washington) Square, 7th & Walnut Streets in Philadelphia for the Second Annual Sacred Libation Ceremony in remembrance of our departed sisters. Although we are doing this in Philly, the ancestors want to be remembered with sacred libation ceremonies throughout the nation. We must never forget these women – our sisters, our ancestors — who were brutally tortured and murdered. NEVER AGAIN!