"A colored man hanged in Chatham County. A revenue officer riding along the road, saw his body hanging and reported. His wife and children were sitting under the body moaning. Nothing was done about it."
This was the 1871 deposition of a North Carolina governor about the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in the state: rapes, beatings, lynchings of African-Americans.
More than 100 African-Americans were lynched in North Carolina from 1877 to 1950, several of them in Chatham County. The Equal Justice Institute released a report yesterday
documenting 3,959 known lynchings in the South during that time period. The New York Times mapped those lynchings,
illustrating which Southern counties reported the most lynchings: areas in Arkansas and Louisiana topped the list.
As a state, North Carolina came in 11th out of 12 with 102; Arkansas recorded 503.
Four men were lynched in Chatham County in 1885, and "Hen Jones" was hung in 1898 in Harper's Ferry, which is about 10 miles from Silk Hope, according to a story written by Jeffrey Starkweather
in a 1980 edition of the Chatham County Herald.
The National Archives contains a deposition
from North Carolina Gov. William Holden (who was impeached)
about the activities of the KKK in North Carolina. The descriptions are excruciatingly detailed:
"A colored man in Chatham County badly whipped. As he returned to his house, the Kuklux followed. One of his daughters came out of his house with an infant in her arms, and fled. The Kuklux fired on her and wounded her and her infant."
"A colored woman near Pittsborough, Chatham County, beaten with a club until her life was despaired of, because she complained to a magistrate that a white man, a Kuklux, had stolen her chickens."
"A colored minister of the gospel in Gulf Township, Chatham County, compelled to take a torch and burn his own church, which he and others had built on his own land. The next morning, after the Kuklux had departed, the melancholy sight was presented of the minister and his congregation holding prayer over the ashes of his church."
More recently, the family of Lennon Lacy, a teen found hanging from a swing set
last August in Bladenboro, has challenged official accounts of his death. The medical examiner ruled Lacy's death a suicide; the family and a pathologist hired by the NAACP
have criticized the handling of the investigation.
However, lynchings were not limited to the South. Three African-American teenagers were lynched in 1930
in Marion, Indiana. In the early 1920s, nearly a quarter-million white men in Indiana had joined the Ku Klux Klan, which had deep ties to state government.