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Lynchings

lynching of two African American men in Marion Indiana on 7 August 1930 detail, "Marion, Ind, Aug. 7, 1930"
lynching of two African American men in Marion Indiana on 7 August 1930 detail, "Marion, Ind, Aug. 7, 1930"

Lynchings

The Midwest was the site of several of the most gruesome and infamous lynchings in American history.

The Midwest was the site of some 152 lynchings from 1882 to 1968, the vast majority in the lower Midwest states of Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kansas.  

Midwest lynchings, though far fewer in number than in the South, were among the most gruesome and infamous in American history.

In 1836 in St. Louis, a lynch mob burned alive Francis McIntosh, a free multi-racial riverboat worker.  McIntosh’s murder, along with the killing of abolitionist leader Elijah Lovejoy in nearby Alton, Illinois, moved Abraham Lincoln to speak out against pro-slavery violence for the first time.  

In 1919 in Omaha, African American Will Brown was killed and his corpse burned by cheering throngs.

In 1920 in Duluth, Minnesota, three African-Americans — Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie — were murdered and hung from a light pole by a white mob.  The crime moved Minnesota to enact one of the first anti-lynching laws.

In 1930 in Marion, Indiana, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith were hung from a tree.  The song “Strange Fruit,” sung by Billie Holliday, immortalized the gruesome hate crime: 

[T]rees bear a strange fruit/Blood on the leaves and blood at the root/Black bodies swingin’ in the…. breeze/Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees.

And the 1955 murder of Chicago’s Emmett Till — the most infamous lynching in American history — galvanized African Americans everywhere and contributed to the modern Civil Rights Movement.

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Marion, Indiana (1930)
Duluth, Minnesota (1920)
Omaha, Nebraska (1919)
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