This blog was written by Dr. Trichita M. Chestnut, Management and Program Analyst in the Office of the Chief Operating Officer at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland
This will be the first blog post on a series of blogs on the lynching of women in the United States.
Lynching remains one of the most disturbing and least understood atrocities in American history. During the Postbellum and Reconstruction periods, mob violence in the South became a tool for maintaining the racial order. African-American men, women, and children now comprised the majority of victims of lynch mobs and lynchings assumed an increasingly sadistic nature.
Between 1837 and 1946, 173 women were victims of white mob violence in the United States. Of the 173 women lynched: 144 were African American, 25 were white, 3 were Mexican, and 1 was Native American. 164 of these women met their deaths at the hands of lynch mobs in the South. Women, who moved outside the well-defined boundaries of the rigid moral and social order of the Post-Reconstruction period, were challenging the cult of true womanhood and the domination of white males and sex-role mandates. In extreme situations, women who would not conform were lynched.
There are case files on the lynching of women in Georgia, found in Record Group 60 General Records of the Department of Justice and RG 65 Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the these records you will find correspondence, newspaper clippings, telegrams, petitions, and resolutions from ordinary Americans as well as notable anti-lynching and civil rights activists and organizations relating to the lynching of African Americans in the United States.
In Georgia, the state with the second largest number of females lynched, had 18 female victims of lynch mobs from 1884-1946: 17 were African American and 1 was white.
The series Straight Numerical Files, 1904-1974 (NAID 583895) contains correspondence regarding the lynching of women in the United States. An example of a family lynching occurred 101 years ago today, on the night of January 14, 1915, generated protest from as far as New York. The 8th and 9th female victims in the state of Georgia, were viciously killed when a mob of about 100 participants, overpowered the sheriff and took his four black prisoners-a man, his two daughters and one son. About a half a mile from town, they were lynched one at a time by a rope and their bodies were riddled with bullets. The victims of the mob-Dan Barber, his son, Jesse Barber, and his two married daughters, Eula and Ella Charles-were arrested after they had allegedly attacked the Chief of Police of Monticello.
The lynching resulted indirectly from a fight at the Barber’s home, when the Chief of Police attempted to arrest them because he suspected Dan Barber was selling whiskey without a license. Supposedly, Barber and his children pretended to surrender, but when the Chief of Police let his guard down, Barber seized a revolver while his son and two daughters beat the officer with their fists and sticks. The family was put in jail and that night, Barber’s daughters were hanged first, next his son, and then Barber last.
The victims died, “at the hands of persons unknown,” since no one had ever been prosecuted for this lynching.