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Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, July 31, 1906
On July 31, 1906, Floyd Carmichael, a twenty-two-year-old African American man living in Atlanta, Georgia, was shot by a white mob.
On the afternoon of July 31st, a young white girl with the surname Poole reported that she had been choked and had her clothing ripped. A white mob quickly formed, including the girl’s father, brothers, and male cousins, and went in search of a suspect. During this era, the deep racial hostility that permeated Southern society burdened black people with a presumption of guilt that often served to focus suspicion on black communities after a crime was discovered, whether evidence supported that suspicion or not. Almost 25 percent of documented lynchings were sparked by charges of sexual assault, at a time when the mere accusation of sexual impropriety regularly aroused violent mobs and ended in lynching.
In this case, just hours after the mob’s search began, they came upon a cabin some distance from the girl’s home and found Floyd Carmichael inside. The mob later alleged that Mr. Carmichael was hiding when they seized him. The men took Mr. Carmichael to the girl’s home and, after she declared that this black man dragged her to home by her father and other male relatives was guilty, the mob immediately shot Mr. Carmichael multiple times. According to reports, members of the crowd shouted “burn him” after Mr. Carmichael was killed and attempted to start a fire to destroy his corpse.
White people’s allegations against black people were rarely subject to scrutiny and often sparked violent reprisal even when there was no evidence tying the accused to any offense. Like nearly all documented lynching victims, Mr. Carmichael never had a chance to stand trial for any alleged offense, and was killed by a mob that never faced prosecution for his lynching.
April 6, 2019