21 December 2017

Georgia Farmers Kill Negro Boys Who had Nothing to Do with the Murder

Silas Hardin Turner, a young and prominent white farmer, was killed 4 July 1915 in Jones County, Georgia when he attempted to collect a debt.  Since the alleged killer was African American, the white people of the county went on a rampage and filled three black bodies with bullets.  Two of the victims, Alonzo Green and his son, had absolutely no connection to the killing of Turner.

TampaTribune1915-07-06Tampa Tribune (Florida)
Tuesday, 6 July 1915 -- pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]




Cut Telephone Wires So Word of Lynchings Could Not Be Sent

GRAY, Ga., July 5 – Sheriff Etheridge and his deputies have been through Jones County today hunting for the negroes who are alleged to have figured in the murder of Silas Turner, a prominent farmer, which occurred on Sunday morning near Round Oak.  No other arrests have been made and the only persons held are the three in jail at Macon.

"I have seen two dead bodies of negroes myself," said the Sheriff tonight.  "They tell me that there are others who have been killed in the race troubles, but I have nothing official."

"The dead negroes are Alonzo Green and his son, the boy being sixteen years old, of Wayside.  They had nothing to do with the murder of Silas Turner."

Enraged Jones County citizens started out Sunday, it is said, to avenge the murder of Turner by rounding up every negro in Jones County…

Shot Father and Son
Two negroes are known to have been shot to death by the mob last night near Round Oak and Wayside, about thirty miles from here…Telephone wires leading to the villages were cut last night and news of the lynchings did not become known here until early this morning when sheriff's deputies arrived with three negroes who were being held in connection with the killing of Silas Turner, a young farmer, whose death precipitated the outbreak of race feeling…

NAACP Headquarters, New York City. Via Library of Congress (loc.gov).Another news article opted for a sympathetic tone regarding the lynching deaths of Alonzo Green and his son:


…The killing of old man Green and his son is pictured as most pitiful by those who learned the details.  Green and his son had asked some white persons, it is reported, if it would be safe for negroes to venture down the road from Wayside and were assured that they would be safe.  Hardly before going 200 yards the bodies of the two Greens are said to have been riddled with bullets.  It is said that the slaying was due to some members of the posse mistaking Green for the negro they sought.

Silas Turner, according to census and cemetery records, was a son of John D. Turner (1851-1930) and Mattie Hardin (1865-1946).  The three are buried at Hillsboro Baptist Church Cemetery in Jasper County.

The 1910 Jones County, Georgia Federal census shows Alonzo Green was born about 1880 in Georgia.  He and wife Cora were married about 1902, and Alonzo was supporting his family as an axe man in a saw mill.  By the Spring of 1910, Alonzo's household bore two children – James D. (b. abt 1901) and Annie M. (b. abt 1903).  Based on this information, it appears James D. Green was the son of Alonzo lynched without cause in July 1915.

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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