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The Stories Of 5 Black Women Lynched America

Photo credit: Steven Michael Photography

 

Jennie Steers: On July 26, 1903, in Shreveport, Louisiana, Jennie Steers was charged with giving a poisoned glass of lemonade to Elizabeth Dolan, a 16-year-old white teenager. A mob led her to a tree, tied a rope around her neck, and demanded a confession before killing her. Steers refused to confess and was hanged as a result. Bystanders fired several bullets into her while her body was still suspended in the air.

Laura Nelson: On May 25, 1911, Laura Nelson was lynched. L.D. Nelson was accused of killing deputy sheriff George Loney on May 2 while Loney and a posse were searching Nelson’s farm for a stolen cow. Both she and her son were charged and taken to the Okemah County Jail. Laura and L. D. were kidnapped from their cells by a dozen to forty white men on the night of May 24-25. Laura was allegedly raped before being hanged from a railroad bridge over the North Canadian River with her son.

Mary Turner: Mary Turner, a married mother of two, was lynched on May 17, 1918, in Lowndes County, Georgia. She was lynched for speaking out the day before against the lynching of her husband, Hazel “Hayes” Turner. The Turner murders occurred after the murder of a white plantation owner by one of his black workers, and they were linked to the deaths of 11 other black men during a white manhunt and lynching rampage. Mary, who was eight months pregnant at the time, denied her husband was involved in the plantation owner’s murder. A mob rose up against her, vowing to “teach her a lesson.” Her baby was ripped from her body and brutally murdered after she was lynched. The gang then shot her over 100 times.

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Maggie Howze and Alma Howze: In December 1918, Maggie and Alma Howze, along with two young black men, were lynched. They were charged with the murder of Dr. E.L. Johnston. The local press referred to Johnston as a dentist, despite the fact that he did not have an established practice. He traveled in search of patients and primarily served the public in Alabama. He returned to Mississippi after failing to make a living by peddling his services. During his travels, he formed an intimate relationship with Maggie, a black woman whom he asked to move in with him and live with him. He also requested that she bring her sister Alma with her. He eventually impregnated both women because he used them for his sexual pleasures.

Major and Andrew Clark were two of the three black laborers who worked on Johnston’s plantation at the time. Major tried to court Maggie, but Johnston stopped him because he wanted to keep control of her. To thwart Clark’s efforts even further, Johnston began to threaten his life. Shortly after, Johnston was discovered dead, and Major and the Howze sisters were immediately suspected. To coerce Major Clark into confessing, authorities clamped his testicles between the “jaws of a vise” and slowly closed them until Clark admitted to killing Johnston. White community members escorted them all out of jail and to a lynching site. Ropes were placed around the necks of the four Blacks and the other ends tied to the girder of the bridge.

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Maggie Howze cried, “I ain’t guilty of killing the doctor and you oughtn’t to kill me.” Someone “struck her in the mouth with a monkey wrench, knocking her teeth out.” The same instrument was used to strike her across the head. While the other three died almost instantly, Maggie, who was four months pregnant at the time, managed to grab the side of the bridge twice to break her fall before being killed. The white mob joked after her death that it was difficult to kill that “big Jersey woman.”

Because no one came forward to claim their bodies, they were buried in unmarked graves. Alma Howze was about to give birth when she was lynched. One witness claimed that her unborn child’s movements could be detected at her burial the next day. Johnston’s parents believed that blacks had nothing to do with their son’s death and that he was murdered by an enraged white man.

 

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Cordella Stevenson: Cordella Stevenson was lynched on December 8, 1915, after a mob stormed her home and dragged her out. Her lynching occurred only 50 yards north of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, and rail passengers traveling in and out of the city that day saw her corpse displayed in this manner. Before being hanged, she was raped and stripped naked. Gabe Frank, a local white man, had lost his barn to fire a few months before. Although he hadn’t been seen in a while, Cordella and Arch Stevenson’s son was a suspect.

The Stevensons had worked for the same white employer for over a decade and were well-liked, whereas their son was regarded as “worthless.” After failing to locate Stevenson’s son, Frank had Cordella arrested. She was detained for several days and denied knowing where her son was.

She was eventually released, and she thought the ordeal was over. On that Wednesday night, Cordella and her husband Arch were asleep in bed when a mob pounded on their door and eventually broke it down. Cordella was kidnapped as the mob drew their rifles and threatened to kill Arch if he moved. He eventually managed to flee and reported the incident to authorities before leaving the area. Cordella’s death is still haunting people a century later.

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Written by How Africa News

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