The Lynching Project: Elbert County
Elbert County Overview
Elbert County was established on December 10th, 1790 and was named for Samuel Elbert. It is located in Northeast GA, and lies on the state border between Georgia and South Carolina. There are two lynchings reported from Elbert County.
William Goolsby was lynched in 1901 after being accused of raping a white woman named Miss Rhoda Alexander while fishing on the Savannah River. According to news reports, Mr. Goolsby offered to work six months for Miss Alexander’s widowed mother if she did not tell on him. Before he could leave, some of their friends appeared and Goolsby disappeared. The group later declared they had “set him free”. Later developments show that Goolsby was lynched by the citizens and his body was thrown into the Savannah River. Another report in the Savannah Morning News tells how Goolsby’s body was washed upon a rock several miles down the Savannah River and a flock of buzzards were seen around it.
George Penn was jailed and raped in June of 1890 for allegedly attempting to rape a 13 year old white girl. Unfortunately, there is not much data regarding the case of George Penn execpt the statement of his death. Occurances like Penn's are a testament to the culture of lynching and the injustices around it. Penn was not granted a fair trial and treated like a human. He was wrongfully murdered for an allegation and was left without record of truth or certification of justice. Lynchings like Penn's may never be sorted out and the truth may never be revealed.
African-American Response at the Time
Around the time of these lynchings, The Christian Recorder, wrote an article about the abolishment of Lynching in Georgia. The historically African-American Newspaper wrote about how Georgia was one of the first Legislatures in the South to abolish slavery. They would acknowledge the law, but also recognize the fact that there would be no enforcement of the law in Georgia, because public sentiment would not obey the law to "spirit and letter." They saw it as a step in the right direction, but not enough to actually make change, because of the system of Jim Crow. Their assumptions were correct as there were many lynchings in Georgia after and they proceeded well into the 20th century.
One way lynchings have been remembered by African-Americans is through song. Songs like Strange Fruit by Nina Simone have been imperative in acknowledging deaths like Goolsby and Penn's. The cruelty of the lynch mobs would leave people like them hanging like strange fruit from the trees. We are unknowning of many of the details of these victims, attesting to the anaolgy expressed in song. The video is an example of how modern day media can remember and spread knowledge of the deaths of victims of lynch mobs country-wide.