With well over 581 lynchings, Mississippi tops the list with the most total lynchings during this time, according to statistics provided by the Tuskegee Institute. Out of the 581 people who were lynched across this time span, more than 90 percent were Black. Perhaps the most well-known lynching in the state was that of 14-year-old Emmett Till. Documents released by the University of Virginia Press in a book titled The Lynching of Emmett Till: A Documentary Narrative, the young Black boy was spending the summer with his family in Money, Mississippi, when he was accused of whistling at a white woman. In a disgusting display of racism, a group of white men hunted Till down, severely beat him, gouged out one of his eyes and shot him in the head. Documents published in the book reveal that a fisherman eventually found Till’s body in the Tallahatchie River with a 70-pound cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire.
Georgia had 531 lynchings occur during this time with 492 of them targeting Black people. Fewer than 40 of the lynching victims were white. According to a report by the University of Georgia’s E. M. Beck and the University of Washington’s Stewart E. Tolnay, the frequency of the lynchings in Georgia were particularly disturbing. Their New Georgia Encyclopedia entry reveals that there was at least one mob killing of a Black person every month in Georgia between 1890 and 1900. The scholars also point to the fact that these numbers represented the recorded number of lynchings and didn’t account for the many Black victims who were lynched secretly before their bodies were burned or disposed of without any official record being made.
As with many states in the Deep South, the main culprits of lynchings in Texas were racist vigilantes who believed they were morally and ethically justified in killing Black people, documents released by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) reveal. The Lone Star state had a total of 493 recorded lynchings during this time with 352 of them leading to the tragic deaths of Black citizens. An unusually high percentage of white people, believed to have publicly supported racial equality, were also the victims of lynchings. More than 140 white people were lynched. White mobs hoping to “restore white supremacy” would “frequently [seek] out suspected slave rebels and white abolitionists,” TSHA reports explained of Texan lynchings following the Civil War. With many of these lynchings occurring before the 1880s, these numbers are not even accounted for in Texas’ already staggering number of lynching victims in the data provided by Tuskegee Institute, but they did lay the foundation for the violent pattern of lynchings that would follow for decades.
Louisiana had a recorded 391 total lynchings with 335 of the victims being Black. The vast majority of the lynchings took place in southern Louisiana, according to Michael J. Pfeifer, the author of Lynching and Criminal Justice in South Louisiana. Pfeifer’s book also explains that this by no means meant the northern regions of Louisiana were more racially accepting places. Instead, the region’s history set the community up for more systemic ways to target the Black community rather than outright acts of violence. He explained that the entire state was more focused on creating more systemic ways to protect white supremacy rather than taking a violent approach. “Yet, in board context, lynching formed a relatively minor component in the series of practices that sustained racial control in the region,” he wrote. He explained that instead “sugar and cotton planters” had a long history of manipulating plantation arrangements and the criminal justice system to “ensure the maintenance of white supremacy” in the 1870s to the 1930s.
In Alabama, there was a total of 347 lynchings during this time with 299 of the victims being Black and fewer than 50 being white. Multiple Alabama counties had some of the highest rates of lynchings across the U.S., according to information compiled by the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). Jefferson County ranked as the ninth highest rate of lynchings for counties in the South with nearly 30 recorded lynchings over the course of about 70 years. Dallas County was ranked at No. 10 with 25 lynchings in the same time span. “This was not ‘frontier justice’ carried out by a few marginalized vigilantes or extremists,” the EJI report notes. “Instead, many African Americans who were never accused of any crime were tortured and murdered in front of picnicking spectators (including elected officials and prominent citizens) for bumping into a white person, or wearing their military uniforms after World War I, or not using the appropriate title when addressing a white person.”
A total of 284 lynchings were recorded in Arkansas. While fewer than 60 were white victims, 226 were Black people. It is possible, however, that the Tuskegee Institute numbers don’t include all the reported lynchings from what some have deemed “America’s Forgotten Mass Lynching.” According to a report from the Equal Justice Initiative, 237 Black lives were taken during a massive attack on Black sharecroppers and laborers. When Black sharecroppers came together in an attempt to become unionized, white landowners and the elite saw this as a serious threat to their own financial growth and prosperity. Since roughly 75 percent of the population was Black, fear quickly began sweeping through the white, elite communities. “The posse believed that a black conspiracy to murder white planters had just been begun and that they must do whatever it took to put down the alleged uprising,” an article from The Daily Beast about the EJI report explained. “The result was the killing of 237 African Americans.” The report also indicates that none of the white murderers were ever charged, tried or remotely held accountable for this mass killing.
Florida may have the seventh highest count of lynchings, but experts are quick to point out that the Southern state was just as violent as other more top-ranking states when it comes to lynching Black citizens. There were 282 reported lynchings in Florida that killed 257 Black people, but reports indicate that that isn’t the full story. “Florida has long been thought to be less violent than other Southern states, where the number of lynchings was believed to be as much as twice as large,” a 1993 article by the Orlando Sentinel explains. “Now, a sweeping new study of lynching in the South has found that blacks were more likely to be lynched in Florida than in any other state.” The study conducted by Georgia-based professor Dr. E.M. Beck and University of New York at Albany’s Stewart Tolnay, revealed that Florida’s smaller population of Black people at the time caused the lower number of lynchings. According to the report, however, Florida has one of the highest per capita percentages of Black lynching victims. For every 1,250 Black people in Florida between 1882 to 1930, one was lynched. This is seven times higher than the rate for North Carolina and almost twice the rate that was in Georgia.
Tennessee had 251 confirmed lynchings that led to the deaths of at least 204 Black people. According to The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, most of the lynchings occurred in the west and middle regions of the state. Lynchings took place in 70 counties throughout the state with most happening in Shelby County. At one point, six men were lynched in the county at the same time on false accusations of arson. Like many other states that supported “white mob justice,” newspapers in the state used a celebratory tone when disseminating news about the deaths of Black lynching victims. The Memphis Press even described the burning of one Black prisoner, Henry Lowery, as an “outstanding lynch success.”
While Kentucky doesn’t have quite as many lynchings on record as other states in the South, it does have some of the most gruesome and heinous accounts of lynchings that took place during this time. Reports indicate that 205 people were lynched in the state during this time frame and 142 of them were Black. They all met with unbelievably inhumane deaths, but one account by a former member of a lynching party proved that white mobs in Kentucky were some of the most heartless of them all. An article released by Legends of America contains a detailed account of one of these horrifying acts. The man recalled the lynching of a Black man named Claude Neal who was forced to walk four miles into the woods before his genitals were cut off and the white mob forced him to eat it. They also “sliced his sides and stomach with knives and every now and then somebody would cut off a finger or toe. Red hot irons were used on the n****r to burn him from top to bottom … after several hours of this unspeakable torture, they decided to just kill him,” the man recalled, according to the report. This particular attack was so gruesome that once word spread, the traumatic effect it had on those who heard the details caused a shift in how many people across the nation felt about any continuation of lynchings.
With 160 lynchings throughout the state, South Carolina had the 10th highest number of lynchings during this time. Only four of the victims were white, according to the Tuskegee Institute’s data. Most of the victims were innocent Black men like Anthony Crawford, who was brutally murdered for getting in a verbal altercation with a white man. Crawford’s death serves as a reminder that Black people did not have to be accused of rape or murder to become the targets of white mobs. Crawford simply got into a verbal disagreement over the price of cottonseed. When he attempted to leave the store, one of the employees hit him over the head with an ax handle, according to Elizabeth Rauh Bethel’s Promiseland, A Century of Life in a Negro Community, which was published by the University of South Carolina. An officer arrested Crawford to protect him from the white mob he suspected was already gathering. Soon after he was released, however, Crawford was hunted down by the white mob and brutally attacked. He was taken into police custody again but this time authorities couldn’t protect him. The mob stormed the jail and abducted Crawford, Bethel writes. He was eventually discovered hanging from a tree and was described in the press as being “shot to pieces.”