"It has been claimed that the Southern white women have been slandered because, in defending the Negro race from the charge that all colored men, who are lynched, only pay penalty for assaulting women. It is certain that lynching mobs have not only refused to give the Negro a chance to defend himself, but have killed their victim with a full knowledge that the relationship of the alleged assailant with the woman who accused him, was voluntary and clandestine. As a matter of fact, one of the prime causes of the Lynch Law agitation has been a necessity for defending the Negro from this awful charge against him. This defense has been necessary because the apologists for outlawry insist that in no case has the accusing woman been a willing consort of her paramour, who is lynched because overtaken in wrong." [emphasis added] Ida B. Wells, The Red Record
"Confirmed” means that lynchings noted in The Red Record have been verified by another source, such as contemporary (ca. 1893/1894) newspaper clippings. If the name couldn't be found online, I looked up the location of the alleged lynching. I also accessed the archives of several newspapers, such as The Chicago Tribune, to verify Wells' claims. Numerous websites, such as Lynching in Texas and This Cruel War, could not be used as a source because they rely heavily on The Red Record as a source. The most reliable sources for information were the American Lynching website, which is run by the Tuskegee Institute, Strange Fruit and Spanish Moss, which relies on news clippings as a source, the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture (for lynchings in Arkansas), and Racial Terror: Lynching in Virginia,1877-1927.
There are quotations from Wells and her contemporaries (ca. 1890s), in addition to quotes from contemporary (ca. 1890s) newspapers in which they use the words “negro” and “colored.” I use these words only in direct quotes, not in my own analysis or narrative.
Also, about lynchings being "vastly underreported:" While the victims of lynchings rarely saw justice, newspapers reported on any and all lynchings with ghoulish delight, in lurid and grisly detail. The sad reality is that tragedies sell newspapers, and lynchings were guaranteed money in the bank.
Lastly: The Ku Klux Klan was not responsible for these murders. The Klan was suppressed in the early 1870s by passage of the Enforcement Acts. The Klan did not organize again until 1915, after the lynching of Leo Frank. "Regular people" carried out the lynchings that did occur.
- Mary Phagan Autopsy, Conducted on Monday, May 5, 1913, by Dr. H. F. Harris, Reported During the Leo
Never Before Published Mary Phagan Autopsy Photo, Released 2013 The Battered Clothing of Mary Phagan, who was murdered at around noon on Saturday, April 26, 1913 DR. H. F. HARRIS, Sworn for the State, August, 1913. I am a
In 1895, Ida B. Wells published The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States. In it, she stated that lynchings occurred because white southern women were having a lot of consensual sexual relationships with black men, much to the chagrin of white southern men. And that consensual sex made white men so angry that they were willing to kill over it.
I strongly believe Wells' activism exacerbated, rather than alleviated, the lynching problem in the United States. From the 1780s to the 1880s, "Lynch Law" was essentially "frontier justice," and many of its victims were deserving of the punishment. Most of its victims were white.
Wells changed all that.
Lynchings were seen, for a century, as quick justice for legitimate criminals. Wells veered wildly off topic and planted the seed in white men's minds that white women preferred black men over white men, and that white men should feel threatened by that. And that white men Should Do Something About It. Never mind that there was little to no proof to back up her theory. Never mind that she avoided the discussion of whether vigilantes and legal executions of any man or woman - white or black - deserved a place at the table of civilized societies.
Further, Wells' Southern Horrors and Record built a foundation upon which our modern, misogynist, rape apologist myth was built: That women falsely accuse men of rape because they regret their consensual sexual encounters. The myth that dictates that you don't report your rape because, Hey ... you wouldn't want your rapist to get in trouble, would you??
Most anti-lynching activism before WWII was profoundly misogynistic. It diminished the atrocities committed against young women and girls by denying that those rapes ever happened. Sadly, those murder and rape victims were not alleged victims. Five year old Lizzie Yeates was raped by an adult man. Thirteen year old Mary Phagan's mutilated body was found in the basement of her murderer's factory. Four year old Myrtle Vance was taken into the forest near her home where she was raped, murdered, and her tiny body dismembered.
No one seems to care about those female victims, they only care about the poor men. Even female lynching victims are not as exalted as their male counterparts.
- The Project Gutenberg eBook of Southern Horrors: Lynch Law In All Its Phases, by Ida B. Wells-Barnet
There are surprising number of inaccuracies in Wells' Record. Human error could be blamed for some of them. It was, after all, 1895; it was probably difficult to compile such a comprehensive list without tools like the internet.
Some inaccuracies were caused by newspapers reporting threats of a lynching like they were lynchings themselves; most threats never materialized into actual lynchings. This misreporting was not uncommon.
Wells purposefully omitted white lynchings from her Record. White victims of this terrible crime were not uncommon; in fact, until 1885, the majority of (if not all) lynching victims were white. The worst year for lynchings of both whites and blacks was 1892. From 1893 forward, the number of white victims plummeted, while the number of black victims remained the same, until the 1920s.
Wells' confirmation bias was to blame, and we can't excuse that bias. She had a theory - a bad theory - and she fudged the numbers to prove it. The Red Record is, ultimately, fake news.
Wells stated that she listed all lynchings of African Americans in 1893 and 1894, and general lynching statistics from 1892 (the worst year for lynchings in the United States) in her Record. However, much of the information for 1893 and 1894 was inaccurate.
Wells' Record is confusing, which she may have been on purpose. The Record does not follow a timeline. Wells reported some incidents several times, changing the details to make them look like separate, unrelated incidents.
The following information - lynching statistics from 1892 - is noted many pages into her Record, after numerous other falsehoods: "RECORD FOR THE YEAR 1892 / In 1892 there were 241 persons lynched. Of this number 160 were of Negro descent."
Surprisingly, Wells' 1892 lynching statistics were more or less accurate: The number of people lynched in 1892 was 230; 161 black people, 69 white people. Wells, however, didn't list the names of lynching victims from 1892 like she did with the 1893 and 1894 victims, so there is no way to confirm whether her numbers are accurate.
Wells' 1893 lynching statistics were wildly inaccurate. She stated that she used the Chicago Tribune's list of lynching victims from the January 1, 1894, edition. I could point out, for starters, that the list was published in the December 31, 1893, edition of the paper, but that's just petty nitpicking. Let's put some meat on this argument.
Every year, the Chicago Tribune published lists of all tragic deaths that occurred during the previous year. These lists included public executions - which they stated were a blight on humanity - suicides, and deaths by natural disasters. The Tribune also recorded all white lynching victims.
It is unknown why Wells omitted those white names from her Record, as inclusion would only have bolstered her anti-lynching argument.
There doesn't seem to have been any kind of fact-checking performed in regard to lynching deaths by either Wells or the Tribune. The Tribune's other death statistics may have been inaccurate, as well. In later years, Wells revised and distributed new editions of her Record, but never revised the lists.
My research also uncovered numerous victims who were not included in her Record or on the Tribune list. Certainly, people would have written her to tell her list was incomplete or incorrect, and that some of the men had not been lynched, or that they knew of people who had been lynched who weren't in her Record.
All the women on her lists were confirmed, probably because there were so few of them.
So ... without further ado, here are Wells' "facts."
The following are taken from Wells' list of all lynchings victims from 1893. These names appeared in both her Record and the Tribune, and have been confirmed:
- unknown negro in Forest Hill, Tenn.;
- Richard Mays, aka Doc Moore
- John Peterson
- Isaac Lincoln
- Samuel Bush
- William Shorter
- Daniel Edwards
- Lee Walker
- Thomas Preston
- Handy Kaigler
- William Thompson
- Thomas Smith
- Riley Gulley
- Sept. 15, Benjamin Jackson, Jackson, Miss.; well poisoning (listed twice: also Sept. 8, Benjamin Jackson, Quincy, Miss.;)
- Mahala Jackson
- Louisa Carter
- W.A. Haley
- Jessie Mitchell
- Rufus Bigley (BEAGLEY)
- Valsin Julian, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
- Basil Julian, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
- Paul Julian, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
- John Willis, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
- William Richards
- James Dickson
- Abner Anthony
- Edward Wagner
- William Wagner
- Samuel Motlow
- Eliza Motlow
- Lucius Holt
- Henry G. Givens
Further commentary will be given on the Jefferson Parish, Lee Walker, John Peterson, Forest Hill, Thomas Smith and Jessie Mitchell lynchings in a separate piece; research has uncovered information that is wildly different from Wells' Record and information available online.
It appears that Wells listed these two men twice in her Record; the date and area (Franklin Parish) are similar and there are no other reports of well poisonings at that time/place:
two unknown negroes on August 18, 1893
Although Wells listed the following as lynching victims in her Record, the Tribune noted that they were legally executed, not lynched (1893):
- Samuel Thorp
- George S. Riechen
- Joseph Bird
- James Lamar
- Henry Miller
- Ada Hiers
- Alexander Brown
- W.G. Jamison
- John Ferguson
- Oscar Johnston
- Henry Ewing
- William Smith
- Staples Green
- Hiram Jacobs
- Lucien Mannet,
- Hire Bevington
- Weldon Gordon
- Parse Strickland
- William Dalton
- M.B. Taylor
- Isaac Williams
- Miller Davis
- John Johnston
- The Grisly Story of America’s Largest Lynching - HISTORY
Innocent Italian-Americans got caught in the crosshairs of a bigoted mob.
The following were in the Record and Chicago Tribune (1893), but the lynchings could not be confirmed online:
- James Williams
- Patrick Wells
- Thomas Carr
- Richard Forman
- John Hughes
- Joseph Hayne (or Paine)
- Samuel Gaillard
- Haywood Banks
- Israel Halliway
- unknown negro in Wytheville, Virginia
- John Wallace
- L.C. Dumas
- Ernest Murphy
- unknown negro in Poplar Head, Louisiana
- unknown negro in Poplar Head, Louisiana
- Charles T. Miller
- Robert Larkin
- Henry Fleming
- unknown negro near Briar Field, Alabama
- Warren Dean
- John Cotton
- Meredith Lewis
- unknown negro in Brantford, Florida
- Charles Martin
- ---- Handy
- Isaac (ISAIAH) Harper
- Edward Bill
- William Steen
- unknown negro
- Henry Reynolds
- unknown negro in Wingo, Kentucky
- Daniel Lewis
- James Taylor
- John Chambers
- unknown negro
- Dug Hazleton
- Charles Walton
- negro tramp near Paducah, Kentucky
- Charles Tait
- John Nilson (WILSON)
- Jacob Davis
- Leonard Taylor
- Judge McNeil
- William Arkinson
- John Williams
- William Jackson
- Perry Bratcher
- Calvin Stewart
- Henry Coleman
- John Davis
- William Lacey
- David Jackson
- John Gamble
- unknown negro near Knox Point, Louisiana
- unknown negro (2) near Knox Point, Louisiana
- Edward Jenkins
- Robert Kennedy
- Henry Boggs
- unknown negro in Lake City Junction, Florida
- unknown negro (2) in Lake City Junction, Florida
- unknown negro (3) in Lake City Junction, Florida
- D.T. Nelson
- Newton Jones
- Robert Greenwood
- unknown negro in Richmond, Alabama
- unknown negro (2) in Richmond, Alabama
- unknown negro near Selma, Alabama
- unknown negro (2) in Selma, Alabama
- unknown negro (3) in Selma, Alabama
- unknown negro (4) in Selma, Alabama
- William Ferguson
- unknown negro in Fannin, Mississippi
- Calvin Thomas
- Tillman Green
- Mack Segars
The following were in the Record and the Tribune (1893), but could only be confirmed online at the American Lynching website:
- Robert Landry, Louisiana
- Chicken George, Louisiana
- Richard Davis, Louisiana
- Frank Smith, Mississippi
- Benjamin Menter (MINTER), Alabama
- Robert Wilkins, Alabama
- Joseph Gevhens (GIVHEN), Alabama
The following were in the Record and the Tribune (1893) but could not be confirmed. There is no “Dickery,” Mississippi, but a search for lynchings in “Dockery” also yielded no results:
- Feb. 9, Frank Harrell, Dickery (DOCKERY), Mississippi
- Feb. 9, William Filder (FELDER), Dickery (DOCKERY), Mississippi
The following were in the Record, but not in the Tribune (1893). They were, however, confirmed online:
- Sept. 30, unknown negro in Houston, Texas
- Nov. 1, Thomas Hill, Spring Place, Ga.; rape
The following people were in the Record but NOT in the Tribune, and could NOT be confirmed online:
- Monroe Smith
- Charles Tart
- unknown negro in Centerville, Alabama
The following was in the Record and the Tribune, but was reported online that it had been a false report:
George Williams, near Waco, Texas
This is notable because it comes from the Lynchings in Texas website; much of their information comes directly from Wells' Record.
There were also a few odd stories in the Record (1893).
The first one was the lynching of William Butler on February 7, 1893. Henry Smith’s lynching is one of the most gruesome of all lynchings, and was widely publicized. Wells noted the following in her Record:
KILLED FOR HIS STEPFATHER'S CRIME An account has been given of the cremation of Henry Smith, at Paris, Texas, for the murder of the infant child of a man named Vance. It would appear that human ferocity was not sated when it vented itself upon a human being by burning his eyes out, by thrusting a red-hot iron down his throat, and then by burning his body to ashes. Henry Smith, the victim of these savage orgies, was beyond all the power of torture, but a few miles outside of Paris, some members of the community concluded that it would be proper to kill a stepson named William Butler as a partial penalty for the original crime. This young man, against whom no word has ever been said, and who was in fact an orderly, peaceable boy, had been watched with the severest scrutiny by members of the mob who believed he knew something of the whereabouts of Smith. He declared from the very first that he did not know where his stepfather was, which statement was well proven to be a fact after the discovery of Smith in Arkansas, whence he had fled through swamps and woods and unfrequented places. Yet Butler was apprehended, placed under arrest, and on the night of February 6, taken out on Hickory Creek, five miles southeast of Paris, and hung for his stepfather's crime. After his body was suspended in the air, the mob filled it with bullets.
Local newspapers reported that William Butler of Hickory Creek, Texas, was lynched not long after the lynching of his stepfather, Henry Smith. However, at the time of his lynching, Henry Smith was only seventeen years old. William Butler was a man in middle age. While it is within the realm of possibility that Smith was Butler’s stepfather, it is unlikely.
Newspapers also reported that William Butler was lynched after Henry Smith; The Syracus Journal (Syracuse, Kansas) (February 17, 1893) referred to it as the "Sequel to the Paris Horror."
William Butler was lynched, but his relationship to Henry Smith remains unknown.
The second odd story is the lynching of Allen Butler of Lawrenceville, Illinois. Butler was an African American veterinarian. His son lived with him. They had a hired girl, who was a 15 year old white girl. She became pregnant, allegedly by Butler’s son, and Butler performed an abortion on her.
This story doesn’t add up. While miscegenation was illegal in Illinois at the time, Butler was a prominent, wealthy horse veterinarian who was well respected in his community; his hired girl was poor with no standing in the community. It seems strange that Butler would feel an urgent need to perform an abortion on her if his son got her pregnant.
Rumors spread in the community, however, that Butler himself got the girl pregnant, which was why he performed the abortion. Additionally, it was said that Butler was not lynched, but that he hanged himself out of guilt. The Logansport Pharaohs-Tribune reported the following story on July 17, 1893:
Was Allen Butler Lynched – – A Question That Is Interesting to The People Of Illinois Country
... The time for preliminary examination was set, but the old man, who has for 25 years been looked upon as a model man in whom everybody had confidence, could not face the law, and about daylight went out near his barn and taking some binding twine made a rope, throwing one in over a limb of a cottonwood tree and hanged himself. The Elkins girl had been living in his family for three years. Butler confessed to SC Lewis, an attorney, that he was guilty as charged; also that he had been having intercourse with the girl for a year past.
Taking advantage of a young girl, impregnating her, then performing an abortion to get rid of the child is morally reprehensible. There is certainly no way to applaud or excuse that behavior. But does it justify a lynching?
This last story is not so much odd as it is wildly inaccurate. Wells reported that the following men were lynched for arson in Carrollton, Alabama, on September 15, 1893, in her Record:
Paul Hill, Paul Archer, William Archer, Emma Fair
The lynching and city are confirmed (although only by American Lynching), but the date and names were incorrect. According to American Lynching, the lynching occurred on September 9, 1893. Wells' Record excluded one victim entirely:
Polk Hill, Paul Arche, William Archer, Ellen Fant, Ed Guyton
This is one of several example of wild inaccuracies in Wells' Record.
Wells sometimes inflated the number of lynchings by listing victims' names, then adding a separate narrative, with no indication that they would be mentioned a second time, at the end of her Record. Wells used this manipulative technique in the following case:
Near Memphis, Tenn., six Negroes were lynched--this time charged with burning barns. A trial of the indicted resulted in an acquittal, although it was shown on trial that the lynching was prearranged for them. Six widows and twenty-seven orphans are indebted to this mob for their condition, and this lynching swells the number to eleven Negroes lynched in and about Memphis since March 9, 1892.
No names and few details. Wells then listed the victims - those same six men - as victims on the 1894 list (this was known as the Big Creek Bottoms lynching). They were accused of burning a barn. The lynching occurred on September 1, 1893, in Millington, Tennessee: Daniel Hawkins, Robert Haynes, Warner Williams, Edward Hall, John Haynes, and Graham White.
The following were in Wells' Record and the Tribune, and have been confirmed (1894) (please note that some of them were hard to confirm due to spelling/transcription errors):
- Roscoe Parker
- Charles Willis
- John Buckner (BUCHNER)
- Henry Bruce (WITH BOB AND CHARLEY PLUNKETT, NOT LISTED)
- unknown woman near Marche, Arkansas
- Richard Puryea
- Oliver Jackson
- Seymour Newland
- Daniel Adams
- Samuel Wood
- Jefferson Crawford
- Isaac Kemp
- James Perry
- Ulysses Hayden
- William Bell
- William Griffith
- Vance McClure
- unknown negro in Yarborough, Texas (1893)
- Luke Washington, Meghee (MCGEHEE), Arkansas
- Richard Washington, Meghee (MCGEHEE), Arkansas
- Henry Crobyson (ROBINSON), Meghee (MCGEHEE), Arkansas
- Robert Mosely
- (STEPHEN) Williams
- Mrs. Teddy Arthur (white woman) (is listed twice)
The following were listed in Wells' Record and the Tribune, but information online suggests that it was reported that their lynchings were misreported (i.e., they were not lynched):
- unknown negro in Verona, Missouri
- Willis Griffey, Princeton, Kentucky
The following were in the Record and the Tribune (1894), but could not be confirmed:
- Alfred Davis
- Samuel Smith
- Sherman Wagoner
- unknown [African American] in Bayou Sarah, Louisiana
- M.G. Cambell
- ---- Collins
- Jesse Dillingham
- Henry McCreeg
- Lentige (LEN TYE)
- Sylvester Rhodes
- Lamsen Gregory
- ---- Saybrick
- unknown negro, near Selma, Alabama
- unknown negro (2), near Selma, Alabama
- Daniel Ahren
- William Lewis
- Alfred Brenn
- Henry Montgomery
- Jefferson Luggle
- Robert Evarts
- James Robinson
- Benjamin White
- Nim Young
- Coat Williams (pg. 265)
- Henry Scott
- unknown negro in Miller County, Georgia
- William Brooks
- Henry Smith
- William James
- J.T. Burgis
- Frank Ballard
- unknown negro in Dublin, Georgia
- Ready Murdock
- Thondo (THOMAS?) Underwood
- Harry Gill
- Lewis Williams
- Mark Jacobs
- Lon Hall
- Bascom Cook
- J.H. Dave
- Luke Thomas
- unknown negro in Blackshear, Georgia
- Owen Opliltree
- Archie Haynes
- Burt Haynes
- William Haynes
- Henry Capus
- Caleb Godly
- Edward White
- George Linton
- Fayette Franklin
- John Williams
- Joseph Johnson
- Lewis Bankhead
- George Pond
- ---- Hood
- James Bell
- Augustus Pond
- James Nelson
- unknown Negro in Biloxi, Mississippi
- Marion Howard
- John Brownlee
- Allen Myers
- unknown woman in Sampson County, Mississippi
- William Tyler
- William Nershbread
- Marshall Boston
- Henderson Hollander
- Robert Williams
- James Smith
- David Gooseby
- Henry Gibson
- Lee Lawrence
- Gabe Nalls
- Ulysses Nails
- Needham Smith
- Lawrence Younger
- unknown negro in Landrum, South Carolina
- William Jackson
- unknown negro in Williamston, South Carolina
- unknown negro in Marion County, Florida
- James Allen
- Samuel Taylor
- Charles Frazier
- Samuel Pike
- Harry Sherard
- unknown negro
- unknown negro (2), Brooks County,Georgia
- George King
- William Carter
- unknown negro in Brooks County, Georgia
- Sloan Allen
- Daniel McDonald
- Scott Sherman
The following were in the Record and the Tribune (1894). They were accused of the murder of J.K. Boyce and lynched in Tallulah, Louisiana, on April 27, 1894: Thomas Claxton, David Hawkins, Thel (SHELL) Claxton, Comp (POMP) Claxton, Scot(t) Harvey, Jerry (TONY) McCoy, and Samuel Slaugate (SLAUGHTER).
It is interesting that Wells didn't showcase their story in her anti-lynching literature. All victims lived as Freemen on the Crescent Plantation, which was owned by the Darcy family but supervised by Boyce. Little is known of Boyce, but from the events that transpired, it can be assumed that he was a bad character, and that his murder may have been justified. Thirty years had passed since the Emancipation Proclamation; although it is unlikely that Boyce officially served as an overseer during slavery, he may have taken his "supervisory" position too far and unofficially presided over the plantation like it was still the slave days.
The following women were lynched in 1894; Wells listed their names twice in her Record. Please note that Mrs. Teddy Arthur was white, and the only one on the entire list confirmed to have been killed by the Ku Klux Klan. Again, Wells listed all of these women twice in her Record:
- unknown woman near Marche, Ark.;
- unknown woman in Sampson County, Miss.;
- Mrs. Teddy Arthur (WHITE) in Lincoln County, West Virginia, by "whitecaps" (KKK)
The following report from May 9, 1893, is so vague that it is astounding that Wells would bother to include it in her Record:
unknown Negro in West Texas for writing a letter to a white woman
Wells listed the following men as having been lynched for the crime of burning a barn in Tuscumbia, Alabama, on April 22, 1893: Thomas Black, John William, and Toney Johnson.
A search of those names offered no results. However, the following incident occurred on the same day in the same town:
AN ALABAMA LYNCHING Memphis, Tenn., April 22. Fayette Deloney, Ed Felton and Emmet Deloney, three negroes, charged with incendiarism, were taken from jail by a mob at Tuscumbia, Ala., and lynched.
A few weeks ago several negroes in the vicinity of Leighton, Ala., were arrested for burning the barn of Claude King, of Leighton, which occurred over twelve months ago, in which he lost twenty-one head of horses, a lot of provender and a number of farming implements, aggregating a loss of $5,000. This was one of a series of burnings, and the people of Leighton were in a state of constant suspense.
Suspicion pointed to Fayette Deloney and his son Emmet. Ed Felton and Grant Ricks, all negroes living in that vicinity, and the evidence continued to strengthen until a negro detective was employed to work up the chain. He went to Leighton, and in the course of a few days had completely won the confidence of the negroes, who unfolded themselves and confessed that they had destroyed the barn to avenge themselves upon King, who had foreclosed a mortgage against one of their number. They confessed that it was their intention to fire his storehouse and residence, but that the opportunity had never presented itself. They also showed the detective a key which would admit them into a number of business houses in Leighton.
Upon this evidence they were arrested, and at a preliminary hearing before a Leighton magistrate the three first named were adjudged guilty and bound over to await the action of the grand jury, Grant Ricks having been acquitted. They were brought to Tuscumbia ten days ago and placed in jail.
Saturday night at 11:30 o'clock about thirty masked men visited the Tuscumbia jail the sheriff, Shelby Frisham, being in attendance at a Masonic banquet and taking the three negroes in charge, rushed them to a county bridge a few blocks away, hanged them and riddled their bodies with bullets.
The deed was done so adroitly and systematically that not a dozen people knew of it until yesterday morning. The mob came from Leighton, each member being disguised. After accomplishing their object they quietly dispersed, leaving the bodies hanging to one of the beams of the bridge. (Leighton News 27 Apr 1894) Note: Until 1895, the line between Lawrence and Colbert Counties ran through the center of Leighton.