15 February 2017

Murder of Dr. Bozeman, and Lynching of the Slave Perpetrators

Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)
Tuesday, 29 October 1861 - pg. 1 [Viewable online at GenealogyBank]
ANOTHER MURDER. -- The Atlanta Confederacy has the following:

CHUNNENUGGEE, ALA., Oct. 24, 1861. -- Dr. R. L. G. Bozeman who lived near this place, was cruelly murdered on Tuesday last, by two of his own negroes. The two negres [sic] had run away about a week previous, and on their return, the Dr. took them -- his overseer being absent -- to the black smith shop to correct them. While addressing one with his back to the other, he was struck on the back of the head, either with a sledge hammer or other piece of iron, fracturing the occipital bone. The boy who killed him has escaped. The one at home charges the killing upon the fugitive. We learn these negroes were given to Dr. Bozeman by his aunt, living near Milledgeville, Georgia.

Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)
Saturday, 2 November 1861 - pg. 1 [Viewable online at GenealogyBank]

Dr. R. L. G. Bozeman, of Chunnenuggee, Alabama, was recently killed by a refractory negro. The Doctor was formerly from Baldwin county.

Southern Recorder (Milledgeville, Georgia)
26 November 1861 - pg. 4 [Viewable online at Georgia Historic Newspapers; notice originally ran around 25th October, before lynching]

$100 REWARD!

THE ABOVE REWARD will be paid for the apprehension of the boy DOLPHUS, called Dol, who brutally murdered his master, Dr. R. L. G. BOZEMAN, on the 22d instant.

Said boy is of a copper color, about 24 years of age -- has a high, narrow, receding forehead and long Roman nose -- is about five feet eight or nine inches high -- heavy muscle, and weighs about one hundred and seventy to 75 pounds. He was raised near Milledgeville, Ga., and may attempt to return to that place; but the boy who was accessory, states that a white man promised them a pass to a Free Country.

Lodge in jail or deliver to the subscriber, J. R. HERRIN.
Chunnenugee, Ala., Oct. 25th, 1861.

Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)
Tuesday, 12 November 1861 - pg. 3 [Viewable online at GenealogyBank]

LYNCHING OF SLAVES AT CHUNNENUGGEE. -- The three slaves, Willis, Adolphus and Bill, concerned in the recent murder of Dr. R. L. G. Bozeman, of Chunnenuggee, Alabama, were lynched on Friday, the 8th inst., by the hanging of Bill and the burning of Willis and Adolphus. We have received a statement of the proceedings by a citizen of Chunnenuggee, which will appear in our Monday's issue. Meantime the author desires a suspension of public opinion respecting the affair. -- Columbus Sun.

From NY Public LibraryA simple search on Google will give you the statistics. The Tuskegee Institute kept track of lynchings in America from 1882 - 1968. There were 581 in Mississippi, 531 in Georgia, 493 in Texas, 391 in Louisiana, 347 in Alabama, and so on. Total from all states: 4,743. That's more than one lynching and victim a week.

I feel a little like I should try to explain why I would give the horrible acts – those committed by the criminal, as well as those committed on the criminal – voice on this blog. There are no (at least to my knowledge) statistics showing the accuracy of the lynchers. How many times was an innocent person hung, riddled with bullets, and mutilated in the name of "justice?" I mean, we probably agree there are innocent people sitting in jail right now – with supposed checks and balances in place. Imagine when there were none. Shouldn't those innocent people be remembered?

Now, make no mistake, sometimes the lynching party "punished" the right person. As in, sometimes the true perpetrator was indeed apprehended – and then disposed of, often in a barbaric fashion. Even if you take the literal "eye for an eye" death penalty approach, I would not be surprised if that would have been an applicable punishment in only an infinitesimal number of cases. People were lynched for stealing, people were lynched for "insubordination," people were lynched for literally being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And let us not be cowards and leave out the racism debacle that lingers to this day. So another reason for giving voice to these past atrocities is in the same vein of "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

As a family historian, I am saddened to think (1) these revolting deeds took place, and (2) while statistics are easy to find, the names and stories of the individual victims are much harder to locate. A list of lynching victims will unfortunately never be complete. I hope that in a small way, posts such as these will serve as a memorial to those who were victims of Judge Lynch and his frightful law.

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