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Lynchings & Atrocities

Documentation of extra-judicial violence across the region. Resources, materials and stories of local community remembrance projects.

This collection of narratives seeks to simply tell what is known of the instances of racialized terror in the Appalachian region and to shine a light on a few of the murders that negated an individual's rights to due process and fair trail.

Bristol, Virginia

Robert Clark, 1891

In support of and in cooperation local community members, we produced a short film detailing the extra judicial killing of Robert Clark in Bristol, Virginia. This film was produced in support of the efforts of the Bristol Remembrance Project and coalition work.

*film contains images of a lynching*

Corbin, Kentucky

Expulsion of 1919

Elliot Jaspin, the author of "Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America", talks about the events that led up to the entire Black population being driven out of Erwin, Tennessee in May of 1918.

Cumberland Gap

Thomas Hunter, 1891

On March 24, 1891, an argument at Cumberland Gap saloon led to the fatal shooting of John Burkes & the extra judicial murder of Thomas Hunter.
John Burkes, 45 year white man, was the ticket agent for the Knoxville, Cumberland Gap & Louisville Railroad. Thomas Hunter was a 19 year old Black man, working as a valet for a wealthy Englishman in the Gap.

Erwin, Tennessee

Thomas Devert, 1918

On May 19th, 1918 a series of tragic events led to the expulsion of the entire Black population from Erwin, Tennessee, a thriving railroad town along the North Carolina border. In the 100 years since, the reputation of the town as an unwelcoming place for African Americans persists, as does its lack of a viable Black population

Gate City, Virginia

Samuel Woods, 1894

In 1894 a group of prominent citizens of Scott County, Virginia organized themselves into a vigilante gang to rid the area of houses of ill repute. In their pursuit, these White Caps eventually arrived at the home of Samuel Woods where tragedy would occur.

Knoxville, Tennessee

City of Knoxville, 1919

KNOXVILLE'S RED SUMMER: THE RIOT OF 1919 chronicles the unrest that occurred in Knoxville following the murder of Bertie Lindsey and the attempted lynching of the accused, Maurice Mays. Knoxville's Red Summer includes rediscovered news reel footage of the city, post-riot from 1919.

Strawberry Plains, TN

Lucian Weaver, 1979

On July 14th, 1879 Lucian (also listed as Lucius) Weaver was the victim of an extrajudicial murder by a group of men in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee. Weaver was accused of assaulting Mrs. Sallie Stipes-Howell the wife of John Howell at their home in rural Jefferson County.

Wartburg, Tennessee

Charles Hurd, 1895

November 1895 in Morgan County, Tennessee, 1895, a disagreement between a boss, James Kelley, and a worker would ultimately lead to the murder of both. After a 10 day man hunt in the mountains, the accused, Charles Hurd, would be abducted from the jail and killed at the hands of a lynch mob in Wartburg.

Wise County, Virginia

Wise County/City of Norton Community Remembrance Coalition

Formed in the summer of 2018 to, in the words of House Joint Resolution #655 to "begin a necessary conversation that advances truth & reconciliation by working with communities to commemorate and recognize the traumatic era of lynchings by collecting soil from lynching sites across the country & erecting historical markers & monuments in these spaces."  Three markers have been erected--in October 2021 at Pound Gap for Leonard Woods the "last documented lynching in Virginia."  A little less than a year later at Kent Junction a marker was erected for David Hurst lynched in 1920.  In April 2023, the third marker to WIley Gynn was erected in the Bondtown section in Coeburn.

The Practice of Memory: Commemorating America’s History of Racial Terror - Daily Yonder

David Hurst, 1920

On Friday, November 12th, 1920, Dave Hurst, often reported as David Hunt, allegedly attacked a 60-year-old white woman at her home. Hurst was in jail in Wise on November 14th, when a mob of about 75 men overpowered the jail guard by breaking down doors. The mob took Hurst and put him into an automobile and drove him to a bridge near Kent Junction in Wise County, Virginia. Once there, the mob hung Dave Hurst to the bridge.

Leonard Woods, 1927

On the night of November 27th, 1927, Harshall Deaton, was killed in Jenkins, Kentucky. Leonard Woods, was accused of being involved in the murder. After Woods’ arrest, he was jailed in Whitesburg, KY. After midnight, a mob of about 400 people from Virginia took Woods from the jail. He was brought to the Virginia-Kentucky state line and lynched him.

Wiley Gwynn, 1902

A group of armed men lynched Wiley Gwynn, a married 28-year-old African American man, on June 5th, 1902, in Bondtown. Gwynn was accused of having assaulted a young white girl. A mob "fired volley of about twenty-five shots ended the negro’s life instantly".

Resources & Materials

Suggested Books

  • The Heat of a Red Summer: Race Mixing, Race Rioting in 1919 Knoxville by Robert J. Booker - ISBN: 1-58244-150-2

  • Anatomy of Four Race Riots: Racial Conflict in Knoxville, Elanie (Arkansas), Tulsa, and Chicago, 1919-1921 by Lee E. Williams and Lee E. Williams II - ISBN: 978-1-60473-190-3

  • 1919, The Year of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back by David F. Krugler - ISBN: 978-1-107-63961-4

  • From Race Riot to Sit-in: 1919 and the 1960's by Arthur I. Waskow

Other Associated Materials

  • Racial Violence, Lynchings, and Modernization in the Mountain South by W. Fitzhugh Brundage - Appalachians and Race: The Mountain South From Slavery to Segregation, pages 302-316 - ISBN: 0-8131-2173-6

  • Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America by Elliot Jaspin - ISBN: 978-0-465-03636-3

Funding Support Provided By:

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