27 January 2019

Daniel Odwell Lynched a Year Removed from Alleged Crime (Or was it Henry Barnes?)

According to MonroeWorkToday, the lynching of Daniel Odwell is referenced in A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930 and Fitzhugh Brundage's Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930. Following excerpt from the latter:
Private mobs, unlike terrorist mobs, usually murdered victims who were already in legal custody. In Georgia between 1880 and 1930, 80 percent of the victims of private mobs were taken from law officers...Without question, local law officers, whether through woeful incompetence or complicity, often aided the work of the mobs.
Macon Telegraph (Georgia)
Friday, 17 September 1886 - pg. 4 [via GenealogyBank]


A Year ago He Assaulted a White Girl Eleven Years Old -- Arrested Wednesday -- On the Way to Jail He was Taken and Hanged.

MILLEN, September 16. -- About a year ago, Daniel Odwell, a negro, twenty-six years old, raped a white girl, aged eleven years, seven miles from here. He was apprehended yesterday, committed to the Sylvania jail this morning, in charge of Constable D. M. Brinson. A party of men overtook him two miles out, hung the negro, and riddled his body.

Another report is that the darky was burned.

By Associated Press.
AUGUSTA, GA., September 16. -- Henry Barnes, colored, was lynched to-day at Rogers' Station on the Central railroad. A party of masked men did the lynching. Barnes was taken from a train near Millen and riddled with bullets.

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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