The Lynching Project: Fulton County
The history of lynching in Georgia reaches a dramatic climax in Fulton County. Between 1877 and 1950, Georgia was second in the number of violent lynchings in the Southern United States, and Fulton County was responsible for 37 of the 589 lynchings recorded during this time period; a number far higher than those of other Georgia counties.
Modern Fulton county is nearly three times the size of the county before 1932. In an effort to save money during the Great Depression, parts of Campbell and Milton counties were incorporated into the Fulton government. Due to this change, efforts have been made to ensure that at the time of each lynching it would have been part of Fulton County.
In 2015 the Equal Justice Initiative shared a report of all of the known lynchings in the Southern U.S between 1877 and 1950. The focus of the research was not only on hangings but also on murders from mob violence and other terror acts against black Americans. The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Byran Stevenson, states that the cause of most of these lynchings was "[people] violating the racial hierarchy," rather than the "crimes" the victims were often accused of.
Fulton County, like most other counties littered with terrorism towards black men and women in the twentieth century, has made little to no attempt to discuss the history of lynching, particularly as it relates to lynchings which are not related to the Atlanta Race Riot. As the EJI and other non-profit organizations push for memorials and renewed collective memories of the darkness of history, there is great progress to be made in Fulton.
Ines Kausche & Anna-Murphy Martin
Alfred Williams (1888)
Alfred Williams was killed in October 1888. He was accused of falsely obtaining money and was killed without further evidence.
David Goosenby (1894)
On September 19, 1894, A Georgia man of Fulton County was lynched. Goosenby was lynched in Atlanta, GA for accusations of rape.
Henry Bingham, John Bigley, Tip Hudson, Ed Wynn (Edward Brown), Bud Cotton (1899)
On March 3, 1899, John Bigley, Tip Hudson, Ed Wynn (who is likely the same person identified in the Tuskegee University Archive as Edward Brown), Bud Cotton, and Henry Bingham were arrested and accused of burning three buildings or two business blocks in Palmetto, Georgia in February 1899 (the details of how many buildings were burned remains unknown). Although there was no evidence tying the suspects to the burning, more than 100 men formed a mob to remove security from the warehouse they were kept in as a makeshift jail.
With guns raised and aggression leading the masked men came into the warehouse threatening the lives of the six guards if they didn’t turn over the imprisoned men immediately. One recollection says they came in yelling “Hands up and don’t move; if you move a foot or turn your hands I will blow your damned brains out.” The threat succeeded and the guards surrendered. The mob then tied up the men accused of burning the businesses and shot them. In addition to the men who were lynched mentioned above, John Jameson and George Tatum were injured, according to Atlanta Journal correspondent Royal Daniel (whose article is replicated in Lynch Law in Georgia). Daniel also reported that Ison Brown and Clem Watts escaped the mob without injury. None of the men in the mob were identified or held accountable for the murder of Henry Bingham or the others.
According to the Atlanta Journal article, Bud Cotton’s confession implicated the others for their involvement in the burning of the businesses. Where there is not proof for or against their guilt in the burning, there is a moral argument that whether innocent or guilty, Bingham, Bigley, Hudson, Brown, and Cotton deserved a fair trial and were unjustly killed like far too many others in their same county during another dark, forgotten story of America’s real narrative.
Anna-Murphy Martin & Ines Kausche
Warren Powell (1889)
Killed in the summer of 1889, Warren Powell’s death sparked outrage among black citizens of Georgia and became one of the driving forces behind W.E.B. Dubois’ activist leadership. Powell was accused of “frightening a white girl” and was attacked by a mob in East Point, Georgia. He was fourteen years old.
Sterling Thompson (1901)
Born in 1849, Sterling Thompson was familiar with the institution of slavery. Though he experienced the abolition of slavery first-hand, he, like all other African Americans, never truly escaped the oppression that slavery derived from because that oppression had yet to dissipate at the turn of the twentieth century. At his time of death, he was a successful politician and held much political influence in what was then Campbell County. He lived on a farm with his family and was well regarded in his community. When was asked to vacate the premises of his home, Thompson refused; his refusal of white man’s requests earned him the reputation of being a threat to the racial hierarchy in his society. This, coupled with his success, caused his lynching. A group of what local newspapers called “regulators” traveled to Thompson’s home, murdering him and shooting his son. After his death, there was a reward offered for the capture of his murderers; this serves as a reminder of his prominence in the community as well as of his uniqueness in the African American community. He went against the status quota, rightfully demanding respect for his humanity; this was not accepted and for this, he was lynched.
Floyd Carmichael (1906)
Floyd Carmichael, a 22-year-old African American man, was lynched in 1906 after he allegedly attacked a 15-year-old white female named Annie Poole of Lakewood, a suburb in Fulton County. After the alleged attack, in which Poole stated that he grabbed her by her neck, Carmichael was shot and killed in front of her. Upon discovering what had apparently transpired between Floyd Carmichael and Annie Poole, Poole’s father claimed that if Carmichael was caught by vengeful whites, he would never be tried in courts. In stating this, Poole’s father promoted the idea that accused African Americans should meet their end without fair and just trials; that is exactly what happened to so many lynching victims. After Carmichael’s murder, a mob of whites tried to burn his body but were prevented from doing so by the arrival of police officers. This instance is unique in that, oftentimes, lynching victims’ assaulters were accompanied by law enforcement in carrying out these terrible acts. The alleged legal assistance in Carmichael’s case abruptly ends there, as there was no further action taken by legal officials to ensure that those who murdered him faced consequences for their crime, which, unlike Carmichael’s crime, cannot be merely alleged, but is certain to have happened.
Atlanta Race Riots (1916)
Rising tension throughout the period of Reconstruction in Atlanta peaked in September 1916 when mobs killed dozens of black men. Newspaper reports of alleged assaults of white women by black men directly triggered the attacks, but the deadly violence was made possible by preexisting Jim Crow era racism and segregation. The victims of the Race Riots were lynched in a variety of means including being hanged, shot, and stabbed. The victims died between September 22 and 24. Their names are Milton Brown, Sam McGruder, George Wilder, John White, Zeb Long, Clem Rhodes, Frank Smith, Frank Fambro, George Dickerson, Stinson Ferguson, Marshall Carter, Frank Scudder, Walter Jeffers, J. C. McCoy, A. C. Moore, Ben Nelson, Roy Thomas, G. C. Tomlinson, Tom Walton, William Wardlow, Ed Watson, and Henry Welch.
George King (1920)
George King was lynched In 1920 by a small white mob for an unknown offense. Shortly thereafter, the executive committee of Council of Churches in Atlanta denounced the lynching & demanded that Governor Dorsey ensure justice by uncovering & punishing those who lynched him. His death sparked one of the “first gestures of opposition to mob violence” (239, Brundage), despite the fact that the committee’s call for action went largely unanswered.
Thomas Finch (1936)
Thomas Finch was lynched in 1936 for alleged rape. His alleged crime demonstrates how common the perceived threat of African American men on white women was; for white men, white women were objects in need of protection from African American men, who were largely over sexualized.
Ike Gaston (1940)
Isaac ‘Ike’ Gaston was a white man who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan for being an alcoholic and not adequately providing for his wife and children. His death received much national attention and sparked a debate at the Tuskegee Institute between the NAACP, Time Magazine, Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynchings, and other organizations about the classification of a lynching. Though Gaston was not lynched for his race, his death is relevant to the history of lynchings in Georgia because it sparked the aforementioned debate. It should be noted that it was the death of a white man to bring national attention to how terrible lynching truly was. The discrepancy in media coverage between Gaston’s murder and the murder of African Americans is apparent. There are over twenty issues of The Atlanta Constitution alone that address Ike Gaston’s lynching, with articles varying from the humanization of his widow to the criminalization of his killers; in contrast, it is difficult to find even one article devoted to some African American lynching victims. Furthermore, Gaston's lynching, unlike the majority of the lynching of African Americans, was pursued in a court of law. There was a trial in which Gaston's killers were named and pursued; it is obvious that justice was more readily served to this victim simply because of his race.
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Martin, Harold. “Job Necessary Now, So Widow of Gaston Can’t Attend Hearing.” The Atlanta Constitution. Nov. 24, 1941.
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