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The Lynching Project: Fayette County

Brief History of Lynching

During the transition of America becoming a slave nation to a free one, lynching was becoming an increasingly popular way for whites to resolve the anger they had toward blacks. From 1882-1968 , 4,743 lynchings were carried out in the America, and 3,446 of the victims were black. Most of the lynchings that happened took place in the South. In fact, 79% of all the lynchings occured in the South. After the Civil War many whites, especially ones from the South, thought that blacks had gained too much freedom. They needed to still have that sense of control and dominance over black people, and lynching was a big part in asseriting it. Lynching became part of white culture, state and federal officals turned a blind eye or supported it, it was a spectactle attended by families, and it was a tool used to terrorize and intimidate a whole race of people.

Fayette County

Fayette county was one of five counties founded in 1821. Following the forced removal of the Creek Indians, the land was divided into a 202.5 acre lots that were drawn in land lotteries. Many of the settlers fought in the Revolutionary War and named the land after French commander Marquis de Lafayette. White settlers began moving to the area in 1822, and due to a decree by the State of Georgia; the city Fayetteville was chosen as the county seat. Besides Fayetteville, there are four other incorporated cities: Brooks, Peachtree City, Woosley, and Tyrone. Cotton was the main crop during the 19th century, and up until 1920 Fayetteville was the only area with significant commercial activity. Currently Fayette County boasts one of the state's top-rated educational systems

Bud Cosby

Bud Cosby was hanged on February 7, 1918 in Fayette County. There wasn't much or any formal documentation on the past of Mr. Cosby or even the lynching at all, which was commomnly the case during these cruel times. He was accussed of attempting to rob the home of Mrs. Barney Mcllwaney and kidnapping her 2 year old daughter. He was hunted down by a mob of local citizens and hanged at the sight where the baby was found, near Aberdeen. He never had a chance at a fair trial and never proven guilty of his accusations, but he was hanged anyway. There were no charges against any member of the vicious mob that murdered Mr. Cosby, as as unfortunate as it is, to no surprise.

Tom Linton

Tom Linton, "Tom Hinton" on the newspaper, was a black tenant on the plantation of Mr. J.H. Helmer. He was murdered in his home on May 20 1899. Around midnight that day an angry mom bursted Mr. Linton's door down with an axe. Once the mob succussfully breached his home, they proceeded to shoot him in the abdomen with a shotgun and shot him with a pistol on his left side. Mr. Linton ran out of his back door and died about 20 feet form his home. interestingly enough, the same day Mr. Linton was gruesomly murdered, another black man was a victim to violent acts. His name wasn't given but he was a painter who was whipped by a mob of masked men, and claims that those same group of men were the ones who shot Mr. Linton. Later in the week the sherrif brought in five men: Oscar Collingsworth, Chas Turner, Odis Mcowen Pitt, Allen Cox, and Thomas Cox; and sent put them in jail. These five men were put to trial the following week. The newspaper article written by the local publisher, The Fayetteville News, potrayed these killers as sober, moral, straightfoward, and joyful members of the church; while they portrayed the black painter who brought forward the allegations as a liar with insufficient evidence. The trial took place on June 2nd, 1899. The court decided to try the men seperately and only one of them, Chas Turner, had strong evidence against him. Even with this evidence Mr. Turner was let free and all of his associates were proven innocent also.

Charles Kelly

Charles Kelly was murdered on August 3, 1919 in Georgia for “failure to yield the road” to a white automobile driver. Mr. Kelly was was a WWI veteren and had returned to his home state of Georgia. It was a Sunday so Mr. Kelly was driving with his father, a local reverend,  to church. A few blocks away from the church Mr. Kelly ran into some oncoming traffic, which was a white driver. It was expected in Fayette County for blacks to turn out of the road to let the white drivers pass, and Mr. Kelly did this but apparently it wasn't quick enough for the white drivers liking. The white driver then followd Mr. Kelly and his fahter to the home of Ophelia Almond, whom Mr. Kelly was visiting before church. The Dirver goes home to get help from his father, Hugh Sams, and his siblings. The group goes to the Almond residence and the father demands to know why Mr. Kelly didn't turn out of the road sooner; he flashes his revolver to make his point known. Understandibly frightened, Mr. Kelly attempts to escape only to be rewarded with a bullet in his back. Mr. Kelly would not be able to attend his father's sermond that day or any days after that. Mr. Kelly's lifeless body and his murderer were greeted by Kelly's mother and his three sisters. Mr. Sams threatened the lives of the Kelly family if they ever said anything about the murder. Despite this, the news of the murder made it to the NAACP. The chairsperson of the Atlanata Branch, G.A. Towns, traveled to see the governer to discuss the despicable act and was given his support. Hugh Sams was never arrested for his crime even after the "support" the governer promised.

Resistance to Lynching

The vicious acts of lynching didn't come without its opposition. While blacks did fear the power of lynching they resisted it as well. One of the biggest resistors was the NAACP. The NAACP launched the Anti-lynching Committee in 1916. The activities of the committee included: investigation of as many of the lynchings as possible, publication and distribution of the investigator's findings and of other data concerning lynching, study of causes and remedies for lynching, efforts to secure specific legislation to prevent lynching, etc. Ultimately the committee wanted to bring attention to the issue of lynching and bring about its abolition. The committee held the National Conference on Lynching in New York City from May 5-6, 1919. The goal for the conference was to focus the attention of the nation of lynching and to come up with an effective program to end it forever. Among the attendees were five goveners, two ex-attorney generals of the United States, nine university presidents, the president of the American Bar Association, famous lawyers, and leading churchmen. The conference accomplished litte as no bill opposing lynching was passed, but membership for the NAACP did grow. It would not be until December 2018 that Senate passed the legislation prohibiting lynching

Honoring the Lynching Victims

Lynching is a terrible act of evil violence done out of nothing but pure hate. Thousands of lives were lost to this sick fad of killing. How do we remember those that were hung, stabbed, shot, or mutilated? We don't, there are no national monuments for the fallen victims of lynching. This is extremely sad, dissapointing, and disrespectful to the families of those who suffered this tragedy. However, the lack of monuments didn't stop people for honoring their deaths. While there are no plans to honor any of the victims lynched in Fayette county, starting in 2005, a group of Georgia activists decided to honor lynching victims by re-enacting one of the most famous lynching cases in America, Moore's Ford lynching. It was a polarizing proposition that had a split view, especially considering the fact that re-enactments are mostly used to commemorate Civil War battles. The re-enactment consist of amatuer actors, black and white, and take place in Monroe, Georgia, where the lynching happened. Before the idea of honoring the victims through a re-enactment, a small group of activists in 1997 began searching for ways to carry this out. They called themselves the Moore's Ford Memorial Committee, and through theri constant presssure they were able to have an officail roadside sign to mark the place of the killings in 1999.

Works Cited

  • Baker, Peter C. “A Lynching in Georgia: the Living Memorial to America's History of Racist Violence.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 2 Nov. 2016, www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/02/a-lynching-in-georgia-the-living-memorial-to-americas-history-of-racist-violence.
  • “Georgia Historic Newspapers.” The Fayetteville News. (Fayetteville, Ga.) 18??-????, May 26, 1899, Image 3 « Georgia Historic Newspapers, Fayetteville News, gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/sn88084163/1899-05-26/ed-1/seq-3/#date1=01/01/1763¬text=&date2=05/30/1899&andtext=&words=shot&searchType=advanced&sequence=0&index=0&proxdistance=5&sort=date_desc&rows=12&ortext=linton shot&proxtext=&county=Fayette&=&=&=&=&=&=&=&=&page=1.
  • “Georgia Historic Newspapers.” The Fayetteville News. (Fayetteville, Ga.) 18??-????, February 22, 1918, Image 6 « Georgia Historic Newspapers, gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/sn88084163/1918-02-22/ed-1/seq-6/#date1=01/01/1763¬text=&date2=08/31/1919&words=Bud Cosby&searchType=advanced&sequence=0&index=2&proxdistance=5&county=Fayette&rows=12&ortext=bud cosby&proxtext=&andtext=&page=1.
  • “History of Lynchings.” NAACP, www.naacp.org/history-of-lynchings/.
  • Mikkelsen, Vincent. “Coming from Battle to Face a War: The Lynching of Black Soldiers in the World War I Era.” Fsu.digital.flvc.org, Florida State University Libraries, 23 Apr. 2007, fsu.digital.flvc.org/islandora/object/fsu:180643/datastream/PDF/view.
  • “The Fight Against Lynching.” The Fight Against Lynching - Wikisource, the Free Online Library, en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Fight_Against_Lynching.