On 30 August 1887, in the town of Brunswick, Tennessee, a black mill worker named James Eastman came out victorious in a fight his white employer had started. On 1 April 1892, an unidentified black man—reported to be the only black man in the county—was “standing around” in a white neighbourhood in Millersburg, Ohio.According to the Aurora Daily Express, it was “alleged that he ‘sneaked around town,’ that he ‘stared at people,’ and committed several grave misdemeanors against the people and dignity of the state. But it [did] not appear that he perpetrated any crime.” On 23 July 1926, a farmer’s daughter in Wythe County, Virginia, gave birth to a child whose father was Raymond Bird, a black farmhand. All three men were lynched.
Hazel Turner was lynched in Lowndes County, Georgia on 18 May 1918. He was one of at least eleven black people murdered by mobs after the killing of a white farmer. His wife, Mary, who was eight months pregnant, maintained his innocence and swore to bring his killers to justice. The following day, she too was lynched. As documented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, “Turner was still alive when a member of the mob split her abdomen open with a knife and her unborn child fell on the ground. The baby was stomped and crushed … Turner’s body was riddled with hundreds of bullets.”
The lynching of thousands of black people counts among the least recognised atrocities in the United States. They revealed unspeakable cruelty and apathy— victims were left hanging for days, severed fingers were passed around, picnics were organised to watch lynchings and postcards were made with the victims’ photographs. Most incidents remained uninvestigated, blamed on parties unknown.