Stories From The Soil

The Equal Justice Initiative has documented 36 Black victims of racial terror lynching in Fulton County.

Read the stories from the soil and learn about our remembrance efforts below.

Palmetto Massacre | March 16, 1889

Fulton County, Georgia, March 16, 1899

  • Bud Cotton

  • Henry Bingham

  • Tip Hutson

  • Edward Brown

  • John Bigby

On March 16,1899, nine African American men were shot by a white mob and five of them were killed; John Bigby, Henry Bingham, Edward Brown, Bud Cotton, and Tip Hutson. A masked mob of white men opened fire on the men at a warehouse where they were being held after being accused of arson.

In February and March of 1899, there had been a series of fires in Palmetto and suspicion was directed to the African American men in the town. At least nine men were taken into custody and placed in a warehouse. At the time, reports state that the local jailhouse had burned down. Not much is known about why these men were apprehended, but the warehouse where the nine African American men were being held was owned by the same man who collected a $300 fee for apprehending them.

In a strictly maintained racial caste system, white lives and white property held heightened value, while the lives of black people held little or none. White people accused of crimes during this era, and certainly those accused of arson, were much more likely to be tried, convicted, and punished by the legal system than by a mob. Lynching, a statement of racial terror and white supremacy, was largely reserved for black suspects. Race, rather than the alleged offense, sealed lynching victims’ fates.

It was reported that Bud Cotton confessed to several acts of arson and in doing so implicated the other men who were apprehended alongside him. A local newspaper printed that “It is practically certain now that news of the confession which spread quickly throughout the town brought on the mob yesterday morning which had determined not to let guilty men run the risk before a jury of being acquitted.” During this era, Black suspects in the south were regularly subjected to beatings, torture, and threats of lynching during police interrogations. In many infamous cases, these tactics led innocent men and women to confess to crimes they did not commit under extreme pain and fear for their lives. News reports eagerly reported these confessions as truthful justifications for the brutal lynchings that followed, but without fair investigation or trial, the confession of a lynching victim was always more reliable evidence of fear than guilt.

The day after the ambush on the warehouse, six men were assembled to form a jury to determine if any members of the mob could be identified. Two guards and one of the injured men stated that they could not identify any members of the mob. John Bigby, who was still fighting for his life at that time, identified two white men as members of the mob but was not believed. The jury determined that the “deceased met death from gunshot wounds inflicted by hands of unknown parties.”

Like in the case of John Bigby, Bud Cotton, Edward Brown, Henry Bingham, and Tip Hutson, whites’ 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. Nearly all documented lynching victims never had a chance to stand trial for their alleged crimes.

Warren Powell | September 4, 1899


East Point, Fulton County, Georgia, September 4, 1889

On September 4, 1889, a masked mob of 15-20 white men seized a black boy named Warren Powell from the jail in East Point, Georgia, and lynched him. Warren, just 14 years old, had been arrested and jailed earlier that day for allegedly attacking a white girl named Ada Brooks while she was walking through the woods on her way home from school.

Almost 25 percent of documented lynchings were sparked by charges of sexual assault. During this era, whites’ outrage at even the suggestion of interracial sexual contact extended to any action by a black man that could be interpreted as seeking or desiring contact with a white woman. Accusations of “assault” were often based on merely looking at, startling or accidentally bumping into a white woman, smiling, winking, getting too close, even being disagreeable. Accusations of sexual impropriety lodged against black men were rarely subject to scrutiny and regularly led to brutal lynchings by violent mobs.

After Warren’s arrest, he was guarded by two bailiffs in a jail local press later described as “secured by an ordinary padlock” and “as little calculated to withstand an attack as a smokehouse.” The lynch mob easily broke the padlock to abduct Warren from police custody. It was not uncommon for lynch mobs to seize their victims from jails, prisons, courtrooms, or out of officers’ hands. Though they were armed and charged with protecting the men and women in custody, law enforcement officials almost never used force to resist white lynch mobs intent on killing black people.

The mob dragged Warren from the jail across several fields; a large crowd of several hundred people yelled “Hang him!” and tried to follow, but the mob kept them back with guns and warned them to stay away. Warren’s tearful parents were also at the jail, and begged for their son’s life, but to no effect. Warren also pleaded, and asked the mob to hang him far away to spare his parents the sight. About 45 minutes after the abduction, the men returned to the jail, unmasked and without Warren. One of the men was carrying a rope when Warren was taken, so it was presumed that they had hanged him, but a search party did not find his body.

Following Warren’s lynching, groups of white men continued to terrorize the black community in Fulton County, dragging black men and women out of bed and flogging them with “buggy traces.” The Governor of Georgia reportedly offered a $1000 reward to catch the white men responsible for the violence, but there is no evidence anyone was ever punished for the lynching or these later attacks. The practice of terrorizing members of the African American community at random in the wake of a racial dispute was common during this period. Southern lynching was not only intended to impose “popular justice” or retaliation for a specific crime. Rather, these lynchings were meant to send a broader message of domination and to instill fear within the entire African American community.

Young Warren Powell was one of at least 35 African American victims of racial terror lynching killed in Fulton County between 1877 and 1950.

Sterling Thompson | January 3, 1901

Fulton County, Georgia, January 3, 1901

On January 3, 1901, Sterling Thompson, a prominent black politician, was shot to death by a white mob in his home, about ten miles west of Fairburn, Georgia, near the Chattahoochee River. Mr. Thompson had been ordered to leave the county ten days earlier but refused to abandon his home.

During the era of racial terrorism, white mobs regularly used racial violence and lynching to terrorize black communities in order to maintain white political and economic control—a dominance originally achieved through slavery that was restored during this era through violent subjugation. Facing exploitation, discrimination, and disenfranchisement on one end, and deadly violence on the other, black people faced numerous challenges and barriers in the decades immediately following slavery and were often resisted in their attempts to truly realize the promises of freedom.

On the night of January 3rd, after the mob confronted him, Mr. Thompson agreed to leave, but the mob knocked down his door and riddled his body with bullets. Mr. Thompson’s wife and son were also in the home at the time of the attack. News coverage reported that they both survived the attack, though his son was wounded in the gunfire.

Like many lynchings, this murder was not just a response to perceived resistance to the established racial order, but was a stunning message to the entire African American community that attempts to gain political power would be tolerated.

Floyd Carmichael | July 31, 1906

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.

Atlanta Race Massacre of 1906 | September 22-25, 1906

  • Annie Sheppard

  • Leola Maddox

  • Frank Fambro

  • Sam Magruder

  • Will Marion

  • Sam Robinson

  • Will Moreland

  • 11 Unknown Victims

  • Frank Smith

  • Milton Brown

  • George Wilder

  • Zeb Long

  • Clem Rhodes

  • William Welch

  • James Fletcher

The Atlanta Massacre of 1906 has been commonly referred to as the Atlanta Race Riots of 1906. The Fulton County Remembrance Coalition replaced Race Riot with Massacre to reflect the reality of terror that occurred.

In downtown Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, September 22, 1906, at least 5000 white men and boys formed an angry mob yelling and screaming, “Get them all! Kill the Negroes!”

For several months prior, political campaigning leading up to the August 1906 gubernatorial elections had intentionally provoked whites’ resentment of African American enfranchisement and an emerging African American upper class. Candidates Hoke Smith, former publisher of the Atlanta Journal, and Clark Howell, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, urged white voters to suppress black peoples’ civil and economic rights through intensified segregation restrictions. Using their respective newspapers’ influence, both Smith and Howell also promoted and encouraged the dissemination of sensationalized reports of assaults by black men on white women, which aroused deep racial hostility and anger toward the African American community. On September 22nd, when the Atlanta Evening News and other local press printed unsubstantiated allegations that four white women had been assaulted by black men, the tensions spilled over into rage and mob violence.

The Atlanta Massacre of 1906 (commonly referred to as the Atlanta Race Riots of 1906) began the night of September 22nd and lasted through September 25th. African Americans were violently terrorized during the massacre, as white mobs roamed through downtown Atlanta and into predominantly black neighborhoods, burning houses, destroying black-owned businesses, and lynching any black person unfortunate enough to be in the mob’s path. While over 25 African American people were confirmed killed that weekend, many estimate that there were closer to 100 total victims.

The racial terrorism inflicted by white mobs during the Atlanta Massacre sought to maintain white supremacy and dominance by instilling fear in the entire black community through unpredictable, arbitrary, and brutal violence. It was common during this era for a lynch mob’s focus to expand beyond a specific person to target members of the person’s family, neighbors, or any and all black people in the area. In this case, as the mob spread out from the Five Points area of downtown Atlanta, they attacked, destroyed, and looted black-owned businesses, throwing stones and bricks through windows and using knives, firearms, and other weapons to attack any African Americans in the area. On September 22nd alone, white mobs attacked and shot an African American man named William (aka Henry) Welch, who may have been a local barber, and left him to die near Grady Hospital. Frank Smith, an African American Western Union messenger, was attacked by a white mob near a bridge on Forsyth Street. Once the mob caught him, they violently stabbed him and pelted him with stones before throwing his brutalized body over the side of the bridge.

As the mob continued their attack throughout downtown Atlanta, black men, women, and children fled to whatever shelters they could find. The segregated “colored” wards of Grady Hospital overflowed with dead and wounded black people, many of whom begged to stay at the hospital for protection from the attacking white mobs still raging outside. Wounded black residents even sought refuge in the local police station, as a section of the headquarters had been designated an impromptu clinic area. According to reports, a black woman named Leola Maddox and her husband were trapped downtown while shopping on Mitchell Street and targeted by a roving white mob; Mrs. Maddox was fatally stabbed and her husband was severely beaten. Later in the evening, white men shot and killed a black man named Will Marion in downtown Atlanta, and a black woman named Annie Shepard was also shot at point blank range in the chest and killed in a separate location. Ms. Shepard was employed as a launderer and may have been walking to or from work when she was murdered.

By midnight on the 22nd, the mob violence continued. While looting a pawn shop, a mob of more than 75 white men saw Milton Brown and began chasing him down Peters Street during the massacre. Mr. Brown was shot three times–in his chest, head, and shoulder. Members of the Atlanta Police Department witnessed Mr. Brown’s attack but did not intervene. News reports stated that as Mr. Brown was waiting for an ambulance, he stated that he “knew nothing of the trouble going on and that the attack on him was wholly unexpected.” He died before an ambulance arrived. He worked for the Stocks Coal Company as a laborer and was walking back to his home on Morris Street from a friend’s house on Castleberry Street.

From the 22nd to the 25th, news reports issued various counts of the dead and wounded, and many unnamed victims were reported to have been beaten, shot, maimed, or brutalized as the riot continued without intervention. Several areas were sites of concentrated violence during the riot as white mobs chased black people throughout Atlanta. A mob destroyed Mr. Alonzo Herndon’s Barbershop, located off Peachtree Street Northwest, and beat to death at least one of his black employees. Mr. Herndon, formerly enslaved, was a business owner and one of the richest black people in Atlanta when the riot erupted. The Kimball House Hotel off Decatur Street was swarmed by a white mob that gathered outside the hotel waving newspapers and shouting, “the time to strike back is now!” Off Marietta Street, as violence targeting black people continued, white mobs dragged at least three brutalized black people’s bodies to the base of the Henry Grady Statue — erected to honor Henry Grady, a white man who had represented the “New South” in the 1870s and 1880s, insisting that racial conflict was no longer a problem in the region. At least eleven unidentified African American victims of racial terror lynching were documented during the riot, but estimates indicate there were likely many more victims.

As the terror continued into Monday, September 24th, the white mobs began to migrate into nearby black communities, attacking black residents in their wake. On the morning of September 24th, Zeb Long was found hanging from a tree in East Point, Georgia, a suburb eight miles south of Atlanta. According to news reports, the East Point police arrested Mr. Long on September 23rd “for incendiary talk about the way white people were treating negros” and imprisoned him in the town jail. At 5 AM the next morning, approximately fifty white men broke into the jail and abducted Mr. Long. During this era, it was not uncommon for lynch mobs to seize their victims from jails, prisons, courtrooms, or out of police hands. Though they were armed and charged with protecting the men and women and custody, police almost never used force to resist white lynch mobs intent on killing black people. The mob dragged Mr. Long with a rope around his neck and brought him to a wooded area near the town. The New York Times reported that Mr. Long “begged for his life” — but, despite his pleas, Mr. Long was “promptly” lynched. His body was later found hanging from the tree.

By the evening of September 24th, black residents in the community of Brownsville (now South Atlanta) received word that the white mobs were advancing towards their community. As Brownsville residents prepared to defend themselves, the white mob arrived along with police officers and “deputized” white residents. The mob forced their way into homes and buildings and assaulted black residents while looking for weapons — since Jim Crow laws made it illegal for African Americans to own firearms. When the mob confronted a group of black men on the street, shots rang out, leaving one white police officer dead and several white men wounded. At least six black residents were arrested for the shooting, though they had been responding to the white mob’s assault on their community. The arrested black men and were placed on streetcars under armed guard, but the streetcar never reached the jail. A white mob stopped the car near Crew Street to attack the black men onboard. One of the black men, Sam Magruder (whose surname was also reported as McSaunders) attempted to flee and was repeatedly shot by the mob; his body was reportedly torn apart by the bullets. Mr. Magruder was taken by ambulance to Grady Hospital, where he died the following morning. One white woman who saw the attack take place reportedly died from a heart attack due to the sight. Another African American man named Clem Rhodes was also reported shot and killed in “South Atlanta.”

Frank Fambro, a well-known resident of Brownsville, was lynched at his grocery store during the mob violence. A few years earlier, when Mr. Fambro testified as a witness in a murder trial, a local judge praised him as an example of “the way to stop lynchings.” But as the unchecked racial violence raged in Atlanta, Mr. Fambro was shot in the chest and killed in his own store, murdered by white men acting under the auspices of deputized authority. Another black man named George Wilder was found dead in a shed behind Mr. Fambro’s store on September 25th, likely lynched by the same mob. A 70-year-old Civil War veteran who served with Union forces, Mr. Wilder is regarded as the oldest person lynched during the Atlanta Massacre. Despite fighting for freedom and the end of enslavement in the Civil War, he was lynched by white men fueled by the same deep-seated racial hostility more than four decades later.

Following the outbreak of violence on September 22nd, military and police presence increased throughout the city and troops could be seen on every corner for the next several days. Rather than subduing the violence and protecting the most vulnerable residents, the law enforcement presence seemed to make the streets more dangerous for black people. Early in the morning on Tuesday, September 25th, Will Moreland and James Fletcher — two black men — were killed by Atlanta City Police on Randolph Street. Two white officers responded to allegations of a “disturbance” caused by “negroes […] firing at passing white men” and promptly shot the two black men they encountered. To justify the shootings, the Atlanta Constitution reported that the police officers were shot at before killing Mr. Moreland and Mr. Fletcher — but those claims were never confirmed or scrutinized in court. It was unclear whether the officers who lynched Mr. Moreland and Mr. Fletcher were full-time officers or newly deputized white men granted official authority to patrol the city much like the lawless mobs.

Also on the 25th, Sam Robinson was shot and killed by soldiers for “not halting.” Mr. Robinson, employed as a carpenter in South Atlanta, was on his way to work when murdered. The presence of white paramilitary citizens, police officers, and state militia did little to quell the riot, and served in many cases to increase the number of casualties.

As the violence and police arrests of black Atlanta residents continued, black leaders and white officials met privately to discuss plans for ending the terror, and the city’s Chamber of Commerce held a public meeting. Though the riot had been the product of white mob brutality, fueled by sensationalized narratives of racial hostility spread by the white press, these meetings insisted on a narrative that the violence was due to black Atlanta residents failure to protect white women. The Chamber of Commerce conversations also revealed that, among white residents, the primary incentive to end the riot was to end its disruption to local business.

In the aftermath of the riot, grand jury investigations concluded that city police had failed “signally and absolutely in the performance of their duty” and led to the death of many African American Atlantans. Citizen groups made up of white and black community leaders met to determine how to provide aid to those most affected. Despite the riot’s roots in racial hostility, more Jim Crow laws would later be developed to further restrict the rights and freedoms of black people in Atlanta, preventing them from living in certain residential areas, disenfranchising them, and forcing black-owned business out of the central business district.

Dennis Hubert | July 15, 1930

Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, June 15, 1930

On the evening of June 15, 1930, a young African American man named Dennis Hubert was at the playground of the segregated Crogman School for black children when a group of seven white men walked up to him, mistaking him for someone else who had been at the park earlier that afternoon. Within moments of accusing him of verbally insulting a white women, the men attacked Dennis and lynched him. Dennis was only eighteen years old at the time of his death.

During the era of racial terrorism, black people carried a heavy presumption of guilt and dangerousness and were the frequent targets of racial hostility from the white community. Social norms of this time period were deeply shaped and informed by the narrative of racial difference, which revolved around the mythology of white supremacy and black inferiority. Perceived violations to these norms could readily incite mob violence and lynching, even when such violations were as trivial as arguing with or insulting a white person.

At the time, Dennis Hubert was a Divinity School student in his sophomore year at Morehouse College. On the afternoon of June 15, Dennis had spent the day visiting his mother’s and his grandmother’s homes. Around 6:00 pm, he went to the Crogman School playground, and less than 15 minutes later, he was dead.

When the seven white men walked up to Dennis at the playground that evening, one of them grabbed him by his coat lapels and began attacking him. Dennis tried to dodge the blows, and eyewitnesses later described that the young black man asked his attackers, “What do you want of me? I have done nothing.” The white men insisted that a white woman had been insulted near the park earlier that day, and though Dennis told them he had no knowledge of what they were talking about, the men did not care. Without investigation, police involvement, or trial, one of the white men held a gun to the back of Dennis Hubert’s head and shot him at point blank range in front of at least two dozen witnesses.

Violence against black people by white people during this era was rarely subject to intervention or serious scrutiny by white local law enforcement or the white community. Although Dennis was in a public space and had not initiated contact with the white men who approached him, the white mob who killed him did so publicly with no apparent concern that they would face legal repercussions. The unprovoked, extrajudicial nature of Dennis Hubert’s lynching was also characteristic of this time period. More than just an act of retaliation against one individual, the white men who killed Dennis on a public playground in front of playing black children and many other witnesses meant to send a broader message to the entire black community, showing what lengths white men were willing to go to enforce racial hierarchy and social dominance.

Dennis Hubert’s “cold-blooded and wanton” killing sent shock waves throughout Fulton County, deeply grieving the black community and eliciting mixed responses from the white community. Unusual for the time, the seven men accused of killing Dennis were actually arrested and indicted for his lynching, and some prominent white residents of Fulton County publicly supported the effort to hold the men accountable.

Notably, some sources suggest that white condemnation of Dennis Hubert’s death was due in part to his family’s respectable reputation as having a “record of honorable service” approved by the white community. Tragically, investigation of Dennis’s murder was based on this particular social reputation rather than a community-wide commitment to the rule of law. For the vast majority of racial terror lynching victims, white communities and law enforcement officers did nothing to hold white mobs accountable, and allowed them to kill black men, women, and children with impunity.

Even with the Huberts’ reputation, many white people in Fulton County strongly opposed any effort to punish white men for killing a black man, reacting to the men's arrests with indignation and even violence. Two days after officials denied the white men bail, the home of Dennis’s father, Rev. G. J. Hubert, was burned to the ground in an arson. When the Wheat Street Negro Baptist Church held a meeting to raise money to rebuild the burned home and support prosecution of the accused white men, a white mob bombed the church with tear gas. A few days later Dennis’s cousin, Rev. Charles R. Hubert, narrowly escaped an attempted murder, and Sisters’ Chapel at Spelman College was attacked by night riders who threw stones and shattered the Chapel’s lamps.

In the midst of these terrorizing attacks, Benjamin F. Hubert, Dennis’s uncle and president of the Georgia State Industrial College, wrote a letter to the Director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation. Mr. Hubert’s letter expressed the urgency of holding the white men accountable for lynching Dennis, and implored:

“How can a negro honestly remain and advise others to remain here in the south unless we are to receive some semblance of justice? If the right-thinking white people will not see that the law is enforced and our law does not protect us, it would seem that the only thing for negroes to do is to find some place where protection is afforded, even if opportunities there are not quite so good. [...] I, for one, have wanted to feel that there is a future for negroes here in the south. I still want to think and feel that way, but unless we can bring pressure and influence to bear to the end that complete justice is rendered in this instance where there is absolutely no room for defense, I can see no reason why negroes should listen any longer to people who would like to have them remain in the south.”

Mr. Hubert’s words expressed the anguish, fear, anger, and desperation the black community felt while living under the constant terror of unpredictable, arbitrary white mob violence that regularly went unpunished. This reality drove more than 6 million black people to flee the American South as refugees of racial terrorism between 1916 and 1970 as part of the Great Migration.

In this case, the men accused of killing Dennis Hubert were tried, and in court they did not deny their involvement in killing the young black man. Instead, the defense brazenly argued that Dennis’s killing was “justifiable homicide” because of “how mortified” the white woman was at the alleged insult and that the “brave white men simply avenged the wrong [...] done to her.” Some of the accused white men testified that they had been trying to hold Dennis in custody until police arrived – but they had no legal authority to do so, and there was no evidence officers had been called or were coming to the school. The defense also tried to plead self-defense, claiming Dennis was reaching for a weapon, but multiple eyewitnesses testified that the young man was unarmed and did not fight back.

Despite this evidence, these seven white men who admitted to shooting and killing Dennis Hubert at point blank range in a public playground before many eyewitnesses were acquitted of murder and convicted of lesser offenses. One defendant received 12-15 years imprisonment for voluntary manslaughter, while the defendant who confessed to firing the fatal shot received a sentence of just two years.

To many, the trial’s outcome ruling reflected the strictly maintained racial caste system of the South, wherein white lives held heightened value while the lives of black people held little or none. As one newspaper stated, the minimal sentencing of the white man who shot Dennis Hubert showed “just how cheaply the life of a Negro is held, no matter what his station in life may be, when it is taken by a white man.”

Dennis Hubert is one of at least 36 victims of racial terror lynching killed in Fulton County between 1877 and 1950. During the same time period, nearly 600 African Americans were lynched in the state of Georgia, the second highest number of racial terror lynchings in any state.

Thomas Finch | September 12, 1936

Fulton County, Georgia, September 12, 1936

In the early hours of September 12, 1936, Thomas Finch, a 27-year-old black hospital orderly, was lynched by a mob of white police officers in Atlanta, Georgia. According to reports, at approximately 3A.M., five white police officers arrested Mr. Finch at his home based on allegations that he had raped a white woman at Grady Hospital. He never made it to the jail. Instead, an hour later, Mr. Finch’s brutalized body was dumped in front of Grady Hospital. When he was found, his body was riddled with bullets, and he had been severely beaten with his right eye completely disfigured. Doctors rushed Mr. Finch into emergency surgery, where he spoke his final words, “O Lord, O Lord,” before falling into a coma. Mr. Finch never regained consciousness and died from his injuries.

During this era of racial terror, the deep racial hostility that permeated Southern society ensured that whites’ allegations against black people were rarely subject to serious scrutiny. White people’s fear of interracial sex stoked the pervasive presumption that black men were violent, sexually aggressive, and in pursuit of white womanhood. As a result, accusations of “assault” extended to any action that could be interpreted as a black man seeking contact with a white woman. 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 mob violence that ended in the death of the accused.

Following Mr. Finch’s death, the police officers believed to be responsible for his murder alleged that he resisted arrest and attempted to harm them, asserting that they shot Mr. Finch while he attempted to escape from their custody. However, medical reports indicated that Mr. Finch had been shot five times at close range in the chest, neck, and abdomen. Mr. Finch was survived by his wife, parents and at least three siblings. At the time, the Finch family publicly stated they would investigate the circumstances of Mr. Finch’s death, but it is unclear whether they were able to do so. Mr. Finch was laid to rest in Stephens, Georgia on September 20, 1936.

No one was ever prosecuted for the murder of Thomas Finch, one of at least 35 African American victims of racial terror lynchings killed in Fulton County between 1877 and 1950.

Mack Henry Brown | December 23, 1936

Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, December 23, 1936

On the night of November 13, 1936, Mack Brown, a black man who worked as a janitor in an Atlanta apartment building, disappeared from his apartment. Several weeks later, on December 23, 1936, a white woman discovered Mr. Brown’s dead body floating in the Chattahoochee River; he had been shot, and he was handcuffed and bound at the feet.

At a later coroner’s inquest, witnesses revealed that, just days before Mr. Brown’s disappearance, a white woman who lived in the apartment complex where Mr. Brown worked had reported that he had kissed her on the hand after she asked him what she owed him for fixing a shade in her apartment. The woman told her husband, who then told the police and the apartment building agent.

During this era, whites’ fears of interracial sex extended to any action by a black man that could be interpreted as seeking or desiring contact with a white woman. Accusations of “assault” that sparked violent reprisal and lynching were often based on merely looking at or accidentally bumping into a white woman, smiling, winking, getting too close, an innocent touch of the hand, or a simple disagreement.

One of Mr. Brown’s coworkers testified that a woman who was with Mr. Brown the night he disappeared reported that two white men had taken him from his home; she thought they were taking Mr. Brown to jail, but he was not seen alive again and his date of death is unclear. Indeed, in the days following his disappearance, people searching for Mr. Brown were led to believe that he had been arrested and sent to work on the chain gain. However, after his death was discovered, investigation revealed no records or other evidence that Mr. Brown had ever been taken to jail. The coroner’s jury concluded that Mr. Brown died as a result of two bullet wounds: one through the tip of his heart and another through the lungs. The jury also concluded that the perpetrators were unknown. Mr. Brown’s killers were never identified.

Mack Brown was one of at least 36 African American victims of racial terror lynching killed in Fulton County between 1877 and 1950.