- I chose the newspaper article about the "Awful Crime at St.Elmo". THere were a few minor discrepencies between the newspaper arcticle and the account. In the account it said that alll that was at the site of the crime was the black leather strap which was used to strangle her. But what it says in the article is that her comb could have also been found at the scene. The newspaper article states that the "Negro had done his devilish purpose", which means that he had raped her but what i find troubling in the credibility of the source is that they state that it was in fact a Negro. They, at the time had not found out exactly who the attacker was and they were jumping to conclusions about the attack.
- The next article that i chose to do was the "Say he is not Guilty". It says in the article that Johnson was only in the salon from about 6:30 to 8. In the account it states that he was there from about 4:30 to 10 which woudl make way more sense from his point of view since the attack allegedly took place around 6:00 according to the account. I just dont think that this article could be very accurate if it doesnt even give an allaby that works.
- The third article i did was "Law and Order vicorious over Overwhelming odds". This article seemed to clarify what the account did. It goes into great detail about the first attack on the jail about how many people were there and how much damage was really done to the jail. However the account did say that only one jailer was present at the time of the attack but in this article it does say that there was two present. It also said that it was not just Johnson that the crowd was looking for,they were looking for all three of the negro prisoners. These details are a little different from teh account but seem to be pretty accurate.
"I am ready to die. But I never done it. I am going to tell the truth. I am not guilty. I have said all the time that I did not do it, and it is true. I was not there. I know I am going to die and I have no fear to die and I have no fear at all....God bless you all. I am innocent."
--The last words of Ed Johnson before he was lynched on the Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga on March 19, 1906.
Lynchings: By State and Race, 1882-1968 *
State White Black Total
Alabama 48 299 347 Arizona 31 0 31 Arkansas 58 226 284 California 41 2 43 Colorado 65 3 68 Delaware 0 1 1 Florida 25 257 282 Georgia 39 492 531 Idaho 20 0 20 Illinois 15 19 34 Indiana 33 14 47 Iowa 17 2 19 Kansas 35 19 54 Kentucky 63 142 205 Louisiana 56 335 391 Maine 1 0 1 Maryland 2 27 29 Michigan 7 1 8 Minnesota 5 4 9 Mississippi 42 539 581 Missouri 53 69 122 Montana 82 2 84 Nebraska 52 5 57 Nevada 6 0 6 New Jersey 1 1 2 New Mexico 33 3 36 New York 1 1 2 North Carolina 15 86 101 North Dakota 13 3 16 Ohio 10 16 26 Oklahoma 82 40 122 Oregon 20 1 21 Pennsylvania 2 6 8 South Carolina 4 156 160 South Dakota 27 0 27 Tennessee 47 204 251 Texas 141 352 493 Utah 6 2 8 Vermont 1 0 1 Virginia 17 83 100 Washington 25 1 26 West Virginia 20 28 48 Wisconsin 6 0 6 Wyoming 30 5 35 Total 1,297 3,446 4,743 *Statistics provided by the Archives at Tuskegee Institute.
Causes Of Lynchings, 1882-1968
Number Percent Homicides 1,937 40.84 Felonious Assault 205 4.32 Rape 912 19.22 Attempted Rape 288 6.07 Robbery and Theft 232 4.89 Insult to White Person 85 1.79 All Other Causes 1,084 22.85 Total 4,743 100.00
"I had been working on the rock church at St. Elmo since the day after Labor Day. E. L. Flannigan was the contractor in charge of the job. On Monday, Jan. 22, it rained and we did not go to work that day. I went to Fowler's store that morning and got there about 7:30 o'clock. The store is about half way to the church from town. I left a stone hammer at the store. I went back to the Last Chance Saloon on Whiteside street. William Jordan, a stonemason, and Luther Huff, a laborer, went with me. We got to the saloon about 8:30 o'clock. I stayed around there and day 'till closing time about 10 o'clock that night. W. J. Jones runs the saloon. I went to bed at home about 10:30 o'clock. I live on Main street, about two blocks from the saloon, below the tanyard, in Higley row.
NEVER DONE IT.
“No sir, I never done what they charged me with. If there’s a God in heaven I’m innocent. If that was the woman they brought to the jail here I never saw her before in my life. Since I go here I learned where they said she lived; said she lived ‘n the cemetery, I believe. She never said anything when she was here that I could hear. I have learned since that the crime took place on Tuesday, the 23rd. I didn’t do it. I never had any strap. I didn’t even wear any belt, only these suspenders I got on.”
“I was raised out on Missionary Ridge. I worked all spring at Schultz Bros fertilizer. I am a laborer and made mortar at the church. I was arrested one before in my life for trespassing. I was walking back of the Southern depot.”
This picture shows the scene where Ed Johnson was lynched. It provides evidence as to how many people went to these lynchings. In the picture the entire bridge is full of people and all around the bridge is full of people. It shows how the entire community would come out for a lynching. It was a thing for the society to come together and enjoy instead of just enjoying it personally.
Lynchings: By State and Race, 1882-1968 *
State White Black Total
Alabama 48 299 347
Arizona 31 0 31
Arkansas 58 226 284
California 41 2 43
Colorado 65 3 68
Delaware 0 1 1
Florida 25 257 282
Georgia 39 492 531
Idaho 20 0 20
Illinois 15 19 34
Indiana 33 14 47
Iowa 17 2 19
Kansas 35 19 54
Kentucky 63 142 205
Louisiana 56 335 391
Maine 1 0 1
Maryland 2 27 29
Michigan 7 1 8
Minnesota 5 4 9
Mississippi42 539 581
Missouri 53 69 122
Montana 82 2 84
Nebraska 52 5 57
Nevada 6 0 6
New Jersey1 1 2
New Mexico33 3 36
New York 1 1 2
North Carolina 15 86 101
North Dakota 13 3 16
Ohio 10 16 26
Oklahoma 82 40 122
Oregon 20 1 21
Pennsylvania 2 6 8
South Carolina 4 156 160
South Dakota 27 0 27
Tennessee 47 204 251
Texas 141 352 493
Utah 6 2 8
Vermont 1 0 1
Virginia 17 83 100
Washington 25 1 26
West Virginia 20 28 48
Wisconsin 6 0 6
Wyoming 30 5 35
Total 1,297 3,446 4,743
*Statistics provided by the Archives at Tuskegee Institute.
These statistics are very interesting. In most cases, there are far more blacks who were lynched than whites. However, in some states, the numbers of whites versus black number of lynchings were rather clse. It the state of Vermont, there were more whites lynched than blacks. The same thing happened in California and Arizona. If you notice, the states were the whites out number the blacks were in the north and the west. Most of the blacks who were lynched were in the south.
1)Lynchings: By State and Race, 1882-1968
State -White -Black --Total
Alabama 48 - 299 -- 347
Arizona 31- 0 --31
Arkansas 58 -226 --284
California 41- 2-- 43
Colorado 65 -3 --68
Delaware 0 -1 --1
Florida 25 -257 --282
Georgia 39 -492 --531
Idaho 20 -0 --20
Illinois 15 -19 --34
Indiana 33 -14 --47
Iowa 17 -2 --19
Kansas 35 -19 --54
Kentucky 63 -142 --205
Louisiana 56 -335 --391
Maine 1 -0 --1
Maryland 2- 27 --29
Michigan 7 -1 --8
Minnesota 5 -4 --9
Mississippi 42 -539 --581
Missouri 53 -69 --122
Montana 82 -2 --84
Nebraska 52 -5 --57
Nevada 6 -0 --6
New Jersey 1 -1 --2
New Mexico 33 -3 --36
New York 1 -1 --2
North Carolina 15 -86 --101
North Dakota 13 -3 --16
Ohio 10 -16 --26
Oklahoma 82 -40 --122
Oregon 20 -1 --21
Pennsylvania 2 -6 --8
South Carolina 4 -156 --160
South Dakota 27 -0 --27
Tennessee 47 -204 --251
Texas 141 -352 --493
Utah 6 -2 --8
Vermont 1 -0 --1
Virginia 17 -83 --100
Washington 25 -1 --26
West Virginia 20 -28 --48
Wisconsin 6 -0 --6
Wyoming 30 -5 --35
Total 1,297 -3,446 --4,743
I think looking at this list is very telling. If you look at the top lynching of black people, it is in those Southern slave states like Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. These states are well known for being very racist and treating black people very poorly. The lynching of whites is more prominent in the Western and Mid-Western states.
I think that if Shipp really had ran or walked fast from where he was to the jail he could have gotten there with backup before the lynchers had gotten to Johnson. First, they had to get through the front, then they had to climb 3 flights of stairs. And then they had to break down that door with the bolts in it which took them a fair amount of time. It seems that even though lynching was against the law, it really wasn’t as looked down upon in states like Tennessee where this took place, since officials were found guilty in participating in the act.
I think that the first hand account from Nevada Taylor is very interesting. Throughout the whole testimony she is very unsure of whether or not Johnson was in fact the man who attacked her. She is very indecisive throughout the entire time she is on the stand. She says on one hand she “thinks” she could identify the man, but then she is positive, but then she wouldn’t want an innocent man punished, but then she “thinks” he is the man. It is hard to decide if she really thinks he is the man who raped her, or whether she believes it because other people are saying it was him. She claims that it was dark when it happened, and she never got a very clear look at his face. It seems like the man could have been either white or black, and I feel that because this trial took place in Tennessee this played a huge role in the accusation of Ed Johnson.
WHITAKER: Is this that strap?
TAYLOR: I think that strap is the one he used.
TAYLOR: He had on a dark sack coat.
WHITAKER: Miss Taylor, would you know the man again if your were to see him?
TAYLOR: I think so.
WHITAKER: Is that man present in this courtroom today?
TAYLOR: I believe he is the man [Taylor pointed Johnson].
WHITAKER: Miss Taylor, do you have any doubt in your mind that this Negro is the brute who assaulted you?
TAYLOR: There is no trouble in my mind about this Negro being the right man. I want the guilty man punished and I don't want an innocent man punished.
JUROR WRENN: Miss Taylor, tell us again--is that Negro the one that attacked you?
TAYLOR: To the best of my knowledge and belief, he is the same man.
WRENN: Miss Taylor, can you positively state that this Negro is the one who assaulted you?
TAYLOR: I will not swear that he is the man, but I believe he is the Negro who assaulted me.
WRENN: In God's name, Miss Taylor, tell us positively--is that the guilty Negro? Can you say it? Can you swear it?
TAYLOR: Listen to me. I would not take the life of an innocent man. But before God, I believe this is the guilty Negro.
“The Johnson trial opened on Tuesday, February 6. The first prosecution witness was Nevada Taylor. Taylor described the attack and identified the leather strap used by her assailant. Prosecutor Whitaker then asked Taylor if the man who attacked her was present in the courtroom. "I believe he is the man," said Taylor, pointing to Ed Johnson. After testimony was given by the doctor who examined Taylor, Whitaker called Will Hixon to the stand. Hixon told jurors that he "saw the defendant with a strap in his hand...near the scene of the crime." Hixon claimed Johnson's face was illuminated by two electric cars passing Cemetery Station: "I saw his face well and could not be mistaken in it." Sheriff Shipp testified next, recounting his investigation and the events leading to Johnson's arrest. Shipp testified that at the sheriff's office in Nashville, Johnson "raised his voice to a higher pitch" in attempt to prevent Taylor from identifying her as the attacker. Two of Shipp's deputies were called for brief testimony, then Whitaker announced, "The state rests.” The first witness for the defense was Ed Johnson. Speaking in "a strange voice," grasping the arms of the witness chair with his hands, Johnson strongly denied having attacked Nevada Taylor. Johnson said he spent the evening of January 23 working as a pool room porter at the Last Chance Saloon, arriving around 4:30 and staying until about 10:00. Thirteen witnesses followed Johnson to the stand, each swearing that he had seen Johnson at the Last Chance around the time he was allegedly in a cemetery raping Nevada Taylor. Then the defense moved on to an attack on the credibility of Will Hixon. Harvey McConnell, described by papers as a respected "old-time Negro," testified that two days after the rape, Hixon had asked him about a black man doing some roofing work at a church in St. Elmo. McConnell said Hixon asked him the man's name. When McConnell told him the man was Ed Johnson, Hixon asked him for a physical description of Johnson. Lewis Shepherd then called his co-counsel, W. G. M. Thomas, to the stand to recount a meeting he arranged between Hixon and McConnell. According to Thomas, when McConnell "repeated the same story we heard here today" to Hixon, Hixon "hung his head very low" and uttered no word of denial.”
-This shows how Taylor was not even sure whether or not Ed Johnson was the one who attacked and raped her. Taylor was prodded into saying that Ed Johnson was the man. When she went to identify him, she even states that she “believes that he is the man”. The citizens of the town believe that Ed Johnson is guilty just because they wanted someone to blame and Sheriff Shipp had arrested him on the charges. It is clear that Johnson was not at the scene of the crime. He states that he was working when Taylor was attacked and there were many witnesses who also agree that he was working. This excerpt shows how the citizen just wanted to blame someone and were happy when the jury convicted Johnson of the rape. When they had heard that the Supreme Court was going to review the case, they became enraged and lynched Johnson. The citizens of the day would rather take matters into their own hands and kill an innocent man just because he was black and they didn’t believe that he should be free. The people of this time were still racist and didn’t flinch to kill a black person.
The jury deliberated the fate of Ed Johnson for over six hours. The jury was split: eight favoring conviction and four favoring acquittal. After a night home with their families, the minority suddenly gave in. At 9:25 a.m. the next morning, the jury's foreman announced, "On the single count of rape, we, the jury, find the defendant, Ed Johnson, guilty." Then, after a recess, came a surprising announcement from defense attorney W. G. M. Thomas: the defense would "acquiesce in the action of the jury."”
-At the beginning of the jury’s deliberation, the jury was split with just under half of them favoring an acquittal. However, when those who wanted to free Johnson went home, they return the next day saying that he was guilty of the charges that were brought against him. From this we can assume that those who wanted to free him were pressured into going against what they believed in from family members and neighbors. Since this was a highly publicized case we can also assume that any white person who wanted Johnson to be free would be in trouble. In the account it tells of what happened to the good doctor who helped Johnson be acquitted of the charges that were brought against him. The doctor’s house was burnt down by fellow citizens who were outraged that he would try to him. This shows how much people feared going against what was publicly right versus what they thought was right. This goes along with lynching in history because it shows how people were publicly persuaded to do what was racist and wrong just because they did not want to get in trouble with their fellow citizens.
“On November 15, 1909, Sheriff Shipp and the other convicted defendants stood before the nine justices of the Supreme Court to receive their sentences. Justice Fuller announced:
You, Sheriff Joseph F. Shipp, Jeremiah Gibson, Luther Williams, Nick Nolan, Henry Padgett, and William Mayes, are before this court on an attachment for contempt. You have been found guilty. Sheriff Shipp, Luther Williams, and Nick Nolan are hereby sentenced to ninety days imprisonment. Jeremiah Gibson, Henry Padgett, and William Mayes are hereby sentenced to sixty days. All sentences are to be served at the United States Jail in the District of Columbia.
This Court is adjourned.”
-Even though by arresting Johnson and sentencing him to his death by doing so, Sheriff Shipp only got 3 months in prison. Due to the fact that he arrested and imprisoned Johnson even though many people stated that he was innocent the citizens of the town automatically thought Johnson was guilty and that led to his lynching and being shot to death. It seems as though Shipp should have gotten more time in prison then just a mere three months. This just goes to show how corrupt the justice system was back in the day. Blacks got a harsher punishment if they even looked at a white person the wrong way while whites got less of a punishment for killing a black person.
Interview with Ed Johnson
Chattanooga Times, 2/2/1906
I went to work Thursday morning and got there about 7:30 o’clock. I stayed at the Church till 8 o’clock. It was too cold to work and we were not going out again until noon. I went home. After I got there Johnny McConnell, colored, who drives Schultz Bros’ packinghouse wagon, came by about 9:30. We drove out to Whiteside. Then we drove on West Side, where he put off some stuff, and then we went to Sherman Heights, where he delivered his last load. We were driving on back towards home when I was arrested. Mr. George Kirkland, a deputy sheriff, arrested me. He came up to the wagon and stopped the driver and told him to “wait a minute.” “Then he said to me: “Ed, I want you.” I got down and he handcuffed me. I asked him what he wanted with me and he said, “I’ll tell you later.” Then they took me to jail and some men examined me and cut my clothes. I reckon they was doctors. One of them was, as he had treated me before.
St. Elmo Station, Scene of Attack on Nevada Taylor in 1906
<http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/shipp/STELMO.jpg <http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/shipp/STELMO.jpg> >
Walnut Street Bridge, Scene of Lynching of Ed Johnson
“The pressure to make an arrest was intense. Shipp publicly announced an award of $50 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Taylor's attacker. Taylor's employer added $50 more, then the Governor put up another $200. With additional contributions from St. Elmo residents the reward pot grew to $375--a very substantial sum in 1906.”
- This fact is worthy to note because it gives an understanding of the enormous pressure surrounding this case. With a brutal attack on a white woman, a public call to justice by her brother, and a town of angry, frightened residents, there was obviously a tremendous push to have the case “solved” quickly. This in turn could have led to hasty or sloppy police work; the authorities had little time to thoroughly investigate the case, instead becoming singly focused on the first suspect they encountered. The fact that even the Governor personally contributed to the reward emphasizes that high-standing authorities were eager to end the case, and also opened the door to the public to involve themselves in finding the perpetrator. This could have only contributed to the mob mentality demanding swift punishment. Yet even without a definitive identification by the victim and less-than-convincing circumstantial evidence against Johnson, the case was propelled through the system at lightning speed. The very fact that the attack on Nevada Taylor occurred in January and the trial began in February of the same year speaks volumes about the haste with which this case conducted.
“At that point another juror rose and lunged in the direction of Johnson. As he was restrained by fellow jurors, he shouted out, "If I could get at him, I'd tear his heart out right now."”
- In my opinion, this incident was the most defining moment of Johnson’s trial. This public display by a juror, recorded in the trial transcript for posterity, highlights the animosity Johnson’s supposed jury of peers held towards him. Because the case was still so recent, and had caused such fervor among the residents, it would have been next to impossible for Johnson to receive a fair trial anywhere near Chattanooga. Yet rather than wait until emotions were not running quite as high, the authorities did perhaps the most damning thing for Johnson’s case and pushed it through the system at breakneck speed. The very fact that an angry mob had already declared to Judge McReynolds that they had found Johnson guilty and sentenced him to die by lynching should have been all the justification needed to move the case to another district. At the very least, this juror’s outburst should have called serious scrutiny to the impartiality of the jury. Even more shocking is the fact that the jury members were also allowed to go to their homes in the midst of deliberations, subjecting them to pressures and outside influence from people who had not heard the legal arguments in the case. With these circumstances, it was not surprising that the trial ended in a guilty verdict.
“The next morning, word of Johnson's lynching reached Washington. Although in recess, Justice Harlan and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes met with Chief Justice Fuller. After a closed-door meeting, each justice expressed his outrage to the press. Justice Harlan told a reporter for the Washington Post, "[Johnson] had the right to a fair trial, and the mandate of the Supreme Court has for the first time in the history of the country been openly defied by a community." Holmes was no less angry: "In all likelihood, this was a case of an innocent man improperly branded a guilty brute and condemned to die from the start." President Theodore Roosevelt announced, "It is an affront to the highest tribunal in the land that cannot go by without the proper action being taken."”
- Although these strong sentiments seem to express the opinion of powerful leaders, including not only two Supreme Court Justices but also the President of the United States, they stand in direct contrast to the consequences eventually handed down. Despite the fact that Holmes openly declared Johnson to be a probable “innocent man” and the President called for “proper action,” the actual sanctions issued against the men found guilty of leading the lynching were disgraceful. Even Sheriff Shipp, who all but cleared the path for the mob by leaving only one guard to protect Johnson on the night he was killed, received a meager ninety days in prison. Worse still, he was greeted at home upon his release with “a hero’s welcome.” This punishment, and Shipp’s subsequent treatment, more clearly expresses the common sentiment at this time than any rhetoric proclaimed in the above quote. While the words issued might have been bold statements, they cannot compare to the injustice done to Johnson’s memory when his murderers were released with less than a slap on the wrist.
- The first document that I examined as a valuable historical source would be the biography of Sheriff Shipp. Biographies are often helpful in that they give insight into the otherwise unknown personal, professional, and even circumstantial aspects of various historical figures’ lives. In this case, Shipp’s biography allows the reader to glimpse at his background and upbringing as well as to infer about his motives. While Linder’s account of the trial was comprehensive and factually based, this biography states the concrete facts and allows the reader to make their own decision regarding what happened. Everything included here reflected the cut and dry, indisputable facts of Shipp’s life and the trial. For example, the biography simply states what Shipp is documented to have said during the trial and does not speculate as whether or not it is true. Thus, this document is unavoidably significant.
Also, this document further complicated my view of the Ed Johnson’s lynching, the contempt charges of Sheriff Shipp, and the prevalence of lynching. First off, the information regarding Shipp’s participation in the Confederate Army during the Civil War initially led me to believe that he targeted Johnson because he was black. On the other hand, around the time of Ms. Taylor’s rape there was a preponderance of black against white crimes in Chattanooga that would have perhaps encouraged Shipp’s belief that the offender was indeed black and should be apprehended as quickly as possible for the safety of the community. In other words, Shipp, at least initially, was performing his duties as sheriff to the best of his abilities. Yet to further the confusing nature of this case, the quick arrest definitely contributed to his career. If he hadn’t apprehended the suspect in a timely manner then perhaps he would not have been reelected as sheriff. Also, his biography states that Shipp told friends during his trial that he believed, “they’re going to end up dropping this whole mess. Nothing will ever come of it.” Perhaps this speaks to the prevalence of lynching at this time. Shipp obviously believed that the entire trial was just a formality and that no one would be punished for a lynching. Maybe Shipp and other participants of the lynch mob would not have been punished if they had not offended a United States Supreme Court Justice, namely Harlan. The biography also states that upon Shipp’s return, a monument was erected in his honor. Clearly, at least to the people of Chattanooga lynching was not only acceptable, but also praised.
- The second document that I investigated was an article from the Chattanooga Times on March 20, 1906. The article detailed the city’s reaction to the lynching and murder of Ed Johnson. This is a valuable historical source because it illustrates the general feelings of townspeople and others who were not directly involved in the lynching or in the trial. It is a primary source document that gives endless insight into the time period and circumstances. In addition, it gives a clear bias towards Johnson’s case and perhaps would make people rethink their initial view as well. It challenges the readers of its day as well as historians of today to really wonder at the guilt of a man who proclaimed innocence when he was surely going to die.
It is interesting to say the least that this newspaper would run a story reporting on Ed Johnson’s last words, “God Bless you all – I am innocent,” when Johnson’s attorney, Parden and Hutchins’, office was set on fire simply for trying to give him a fair trial. Likewise although later on, Dr. Jones, who tried to help federal officials find the truth, had his home set on fire as well. Perhaps the general opinion of lynching was not as good or prevalent as typically assumed, but nobody wanted to overtly and solely stand against it at the time of offense. On the other hand, perhaps the lynchers met so little resistance because the general opinion did approve or at the very least were so used to the lynchings that they felt no compulsion to aid in stopping the mob.
This scene of the Walnut Street Bridge where Ed Johnson was lynched is definitely a valuable historical image. Not only does it testify to the time period construction of bridges and homes, it also immortalizes the hundreds of people out to support or assist in the lynching and ultimate murder of Ed Johnson. It shows that lynchings at this time were social more than anything else. People who could clearly not see or actively participate still stayed in the general vicinity of the lynching. This image is clearly a testament to the lynching culture of the time.
I found that this particular image gave the impression that lynching was extremely prevalent in late 19th century society. Also, it showed the human desire to watch another, guilty or not, be killed. With no regard for the facts of the case, people seemingly wanted some form of justice for the rape of Ms. Taylor even if that man is innocent. Lynching seems to be so prevalent that people’s first reaction to potentially setting free a guilty man is to lynch him. People seem more willing to kill an innocent man than risk releasing a guilty man. Thus this image was very interesting.
"The pressure to make an arrest was intense. Shipp publicly announced an award of $50 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Taylor's attacker. Taylor's employer added $50 more, then the Governor put of another $200. With additional contributions from St. Elmo are residents the reward pot grew to $375--a very substantial sum in 1906. "
This quote made me realize just exactly how important it was for the arrest to be done. It seemed like everyone involved in this crime wanted the criminial to be found as soon as possible. This would be an important document in history because it proves how much everyone involved wanted the criminal to be found, people were willing to spend alot of money for any information that could possible found to help aid in the arrest.
"Soon one member of the mob stepped forward to tell Captain George Brown, second in command at the jail, that he would allow five minutes for someone to turn over the keys or he would lead a violent assault on the jail. No keys were delivered. Leaders of the mob grabbed a steel post and began ramming it against the front door. Others in the mob took over the electric plant, throwing the jail into darkness. Men stole sledgehammers from a nearby blacksmith shop and started working on hinges of the heavy door. "
This quote also sseemed very important to me because it shows how quickly the mob got out of hand. The police officers really had no control of what was going on and the people got very violent. I think this shows just how determined the people were to punish the crimmanl and they didnt think it was happening quick enough. I think this would be a good source for history today because it shows what a different court system we have today. People are innocent untill proven guilty when here it seems to be the opposite, a scene like this would never happen today.
Cries of "Kill him now!" and "Cut his heart out right here!" came from the mob. The leaders of the mob debated what they should do. Finally someone yelled, "To the county bridge!" The call was met by great applause
This was also very intresting because I could not believe how violent the people were. They were really not holding anything back when it came to how Johnson should be treated.
The trial of Sheriff Joseph Shipp et al. is the only time in the history of the United States that the Supreme Court conducted a criminal trial. Linder gives a descriptive account regarding Sheriff Shipp’s role in the conviction and execution of Ed Johnson, a black man suspected of raping and killing a white woman. Shipp was convicted by the Supreme Court for his role in the lynching of Johnson. The Supreme Court had to try to decide if Shipp did enough, as the Sheriff of Hamilton County, TN, to stop the lynching of Johnson that occurred as a result of Johnson’s suspicion of raping of Nevada Taylor.
“At that time and at all times hereinafter mentioned defendant Shipp was the duly elected, qualified and acting sheriff of Hamilton County, Tenn., and as such sheriff had and exercised full charge and control of the county jail located in Chattanooga, and was the legal custodian under the laws of Tennessee of all persons duly committed in said county under the laws of the State to confinement and imprisonment within the jail, and the defendants Matthew Galloway and Jeremiah Gibson were duly appointed, qualified and acting deputy sheriffs under Shipp
The information not only charges them with failure to uphold the law, but with having become parties to a conspiracy to dethrone the law and substitute in its place mob violence, the antithesis of law. A conviction of these defendants under the charges of the information involves not only the crime and infamy of perjury, but the guilt of conspiracy to murder. ”
• The preceding quote came from the Supreme Court decision in the Shipp et al. vs. United States case. Primary documents of Supreme Court cases are valuable historical sources because they shed light upon the actual facts of the case. All the information regarding the case, from both sides, is included in the document. Documents from Supreme Court cases include both a briefing of both sides (the United States & Shipp) along with the opinion and dissenting opinion of the case. The quote selected was taken by Chief Justice Fuller’s opinion of the court.
• Shipp et. al were convicted of failing to uphold the law, conspiracy of dethroning the law, substituting the law for mob violence, perjury, and conspiracy to murder. Thus, it is apparent that lynching in the nineteenth century, especially pertaining to blacks, was widespread. Based on the case of Shipp’s role in the lynching of Ed Johnson, it shows that even law enforcement allowed and even, enforced lynching. Shipp was the elected and acting sheriff of Hamilton County when this crime occurred. Thus, he had the role to enforce the law and protect citizens. Instead, Shipp was convicted of going against the law by allowing mob violence to take over.
“A. I never conspired with any living man, my deputies or anyone else; and I had no knowledge, not the slightest, that there would be any effort upon the part of anybody to interfere with Johnson.
Q. State whether or no, if you had suspected or if you had seen or realized that there was going to be any effort or any attempt at mobbing the prisoner, what course you would have pursued for his protection.
Mr. Sanford: I object to the question as calling for a purely hypothetical answer as to what the witness might have done.
Q. I should have certainly done as I had done before, endeavored to protect him.”
• I chose to highlight this section of Shipps’s testimony because he is directly questioned about his role in the lynching of Johnson. In comparison to the first quote, court testimony is very informative, thus, a valuable source of history. Since Shipp was the main person in the trial (because he was the Sheriff at the time), his testimony to the Supreme Court is especially important.
• Shipp affirms that he never conspired or had any slight knowledge pertaining to Johnson’s lynching. Also, when asked if he knew of any mob effort against Johnson, he states that he did all that he could do to protect him. However, since the court found him guilty of perjury, allowing mob violence, and failure to enforce the law, they must’ve had strong evidence that contradicted Shipp’s testimony. By reading the whole testimony that Shipp delivered, it is apparent that he was questioned very intensively about his role in the lynching. The quote depicts the perjury that Shipp committed by lying about protecting Johnson and not having any knowledge of the plan to lynch him.
“Q: Did you hear Captain Shipp, on the day Ed Johnson was lynched, say anything in reference to whether the Supreme court had taken any action or not? If so, state what he said, and the time.
A: I heard him tell his wife that afternoon that he was going to get a hearing--he would get a trial, or something like that. I don't know exactly the words.”
The trial records, such as this one of the prosecution questioning Shipp’s cook, provide a highly valuable resource to help us understand what went on. Here, we have tangible evidence that, between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon, he knew of the hearing that Johnson was granted by the Supreme Court. This piece of testimony helps me understand what really went on, and how a sheriff, an employee of the state, could be convicted of conspiring with a lynch mob.
“A. The substance of it was that he told me that the prisoner had been taken and that he had been seized immediately when he went into the jail, and had been unable to do anything; but I suggested to him that we go and try to identify some of the members of the mob. He said that would be a very dangerous thing to do, and a very foolish thing to do; that they were very desperate men. While we were talking a fusilade of shots we heard from the bridge.
Q. You suggested that you follow after them. Was that your suggestion?
A. That was my suggestion.
Q. He said it would be a dangerous and foolish thing?
A. Yes sir.”
Once again, I liked the trial record to help me understand the case, this time for a different reason. This testimony, a man who repeatedly asked the sheriff to do something about the mob, makes me realize how difficult it was to stop lynching. It seems as though the crime was not committed during the lynching, because, in reality, how is a sheriff going to stand up to 250 armed men? It is clear that the crime was committed before, that the sheriff knew something was going to happen, and he’d rather let it happen by giving his guards the night off. Here, he used what would have been legitimate had he not gave his guards the night off, the defense that warding off a lynch mob was very dangerous and highly unlikely to succeed.
Another page of the website did a lot for me to confirm just how impossible it was to stop lynch mobs. If, in 1882, there were just about as many lynchings as 1902, and after that there were still consistently over 50 a year for the next twenty years, this tells us a lot. Either they were impossible to stop, or the police forces were unwilling to stop them (and maybe Shipp-like incidents were happening elsewhere). It seems to me, judging by what happened in Chattanooga, that it was a combination of both.
1) “Sheriff Joseph F. Shipp” was a very brief but concise document that covered the main points of Sheriff Shipp’s life. He joined the Confederate Army upon completion of seventh grade and even witnessed the major naval battle at Hampton Roads between the two ironclad ships – the Monitor and the Merrimack. After the American Civil War ended, he returned home to Georgia where he worked for his father’s cotton gin business and later on became a wealthy furniture manufacturer in Chattanooga, TN. Thus in 1904, he had been labeled as “a natural born leader” by the Chattanooga Times and was elected as sheriff of Hamilton County. Near the end of his first term as sheriff, however, a young woman named Nevada Taylor had been raped and Shipp felt “unprecedented pressure” to resolve the rape immediately and win a conviction. “He did – or so he and the white community thought.”
Unfortunately for Shipp, federal authorities became quite suspicious of the sheriff following the death of Ed Johnson at the hands of a lynch mob. These authorities did not understand how the “well-connected” sheriff never caught wind of such a heinous plan and how he conveniently employed “fewer deputies than usual there on Monday night” which probably “seemed a virtual invitation to potential lynchers.” Shipp secretly remarked to some friends that the Supreme Court would drop “this whole mess” and that “Nothing will ever come of it.” This seemed to imply that Shipp knew more than what he had claimed in the contempt case and had probably knew about the whole plan from the beginning. Contrary to Shipp’s assessment, he was not re-elected as sheriff and the Supreme Court found Shipp guilty of criminal contempt and sentenced him to a ninety day jail period.
After he had finished serving his sentence, Shipp “returned to a hero’s welcome in Chattanooga.” A crowd of over 10,000 people greeted Shipp as a band played “Dixie” and “Home Sweet Home.” From this point on, he often wore his old Confederate uniform and a monument had been erected in his honor upon his death. Although he had failed to enforce the law, the white south loved Shipp as he apparently sought to preserve the “Southern way of life.” After all, he had been part of the cotton gin business. He had no intentions to protecting blacks and “virtually invited” a potential lynch group to take the law into their own hands. Not only that, but all the white criminals held in the same jail as Johnson could also have seriously injured or killed during the attacks on the jail.
2) “SAYS HE IS NOT GUILTY”
“Ed Johnson, the alleged St. Elmo negro rapist, who is being held in the Davidson county jail for safe keeping, made a statement in the Nashville Banner yesterday afternoon in which he declares that he innocent of the crime of which he is charged. The negro claims that he can prove by several parties of repute that he was in the Last Chance Saloon on Whiteside street between the hours of 6:30 and 8 o'clock on the night of Jan. 23, when Miss Nevada Taylor was assaulted… Then he [Sheriff Kirkland] said to me: “Ed, I want you.” I got down and he handcuffed me. I asked him what he wanted with me and he said, “I’ll tell you later.” Then they took me to jail and some men examined me and cut my clothes. I reckon they was doctors… No sir, I never done what they charged me with. If there’s a God in heaven I’m innocent. If that was the woman they brought to the jail here I never saw her before in my life. Since I go here I learned where they said she lived; said she lived ‘n the cemetery, I believe. She never said anything when she was here that I could hear. I have learned since that the crime took place on Tuesday, the 23rd. I didn’t do it. I never had any strap. I didn’t even wear any belt, only these suspenders I got on… I was raised out on Missionary Ridge. I worked all spring at Schultz Bros fertilizer. I am a laborer and made mortar at the church. I was arrested one before in my life for trespassing. I was walking back of the Southern depot.”
This document was very valuable as it provided Mr. Johnson with the opportunity to give his side of what happened in concern with Nevada Taylor. Johnson provided a very vivid and detailed account leading up to his arrest and that he had supposedly been at the Last Chance Saloon at the time of the rape. Nevertheless, when he was arrested by the deputy sheriff, the sheriff did not explain why he was being arrested. This was a clear violation of Mr. Johnson’s right of the writ of habeus corpus. In addition, there were men who were cutting his clothes and destroying his personal property? Why was the law being suspended? Wasn’t this man entitled to the same laws and protection as any other citizen? The only time this man had ever been arrested previously was on the charge of trespassing. He claimed that he did not know the girl (not that he needed to in order to commit a crime). He also stated that he did not own a strap or belt since he only wore suspenders. Regardless, Johnson was black and, like every other African American living at that time, he was up against virtually insurmountable odds of white society and prejudice. Even if he was not guilty, he was the perfect scapegoat for the whites to use to alleviate their frustration and anxiety.
3) The Trial of Sheriff Shipp: An Account by Doug Linder
“She couldn't recall much, but told the Sheriff was a little below average height, had muscular arms, and wore a black outfit and a hat, and had "a soft, kind voice." Shipp asked, "Was the man white or Negro?" Taylor answered that she wasn't sure--she hadn't gotten a good look at him--, then said she thought he was black.”
“It took three days for the Shipp to make an arrest. An investigation of the crime scene shortly after the rape turned up a black leather strap that perfectly matched red streaks around Taylor's neck. On Thursday, Will Hixon, a man who worked at a medicine company near the cemetery reported that he had seen a black man "twirling a leather strap around his finger" shortly before 6 p.m. on the evening of the rape. Hixon called Shipp later to say that he had just seen that same black man walking north toward town with a tall black man. Finding the tall black man alone, Shipp learned that his companion--and now prime suspect--was a drifter and sometimes carpenter named Ed Johnson. Within hours, Shipp spotted Johnson riding on the back of an ice wagon. Johnson was handcuffed, brought to jail, and identified by Hixon as the man he had seen with the strap by St. Elmo station.”
“Then the defense moved on to an attack on the credibility of Will Hixon. Harvey McConnell, described by papers as a respected "old-time Negro," testified that two days after the rape, Hixon had asked him about a black man doing some roofing work at a church in St. Elmo. McConnell said Hixon asked him the man's name. When McConnell told him the man was Ed Johnson, Hixon asked him for a physical description of Johnson. Lewis Shepherd then called his co-counsel, W. G. M. Thomas, to the stand to recount a meeting he arranged between Hixon and McConnell. According to Thomas, when McConnell "repeated the same story we heard here today" to Hixon, Hixon "hung his head very low" and uttered no word of denial.”
“On Monday, February 12, Parden and Hutchins visited Judge McReynolds in his courtroom to inform him of their intention to appeal Ed Johnson's conviction. They told them that they had a motion ready. McReynolds, stunned by this development and fearing the consequences of a delay in Johnson's execution, told the two attorneys to return the next day to formally file their motion. Return the next day Parden and Hutchins did, only to be told by the judge that they were one day late: the time limit for filing a motion for a new trial was three days--this was the fourth. Parden and Hutchins left the courtroom feeling they had been tricked.”
“On Monday, May 24, 1909, the Supreme Court met to announce its decision in the matter of United States v. Shipp. In his quiet voice, Chief Justice Fuller read his opinion. Fuller said that Sheriff Shipp "resented the necessary order of this court as an alien intrusion" and believed it to be "responsible for the lynching." The Court concluded otherwise: "Shipp not only made the work of the mob easy, but in effect aided and abetted it." Shipp was found guilty of criminal contempt. The Court also declared jailer Jeremiah Gibson and four members of the lynch mob--Nick Nolan, William Mayes, Henry Padgett, and Luther Williams guilty. Evidence was found insufficient to convict Deputy Matthew Galloway and two members of the lynch mob. Justices Holmes, Harlan, Brewer, and Day joined Chief Justice Fuller's decision. Three dissenting justices voted to acquit all defendants.”
Linder’s account was the most thorough and vivid of all of the historical accounts presented on the website. It did a great job going through the trials and how Ed Johnson was brutally dragged from the jail, hung from a bridge, and was shot while hanging. Most importantly, however, Linder’s document explains the flaws of Shipp’s reasoning in arresting Johnson and how Shipp really was responsible for Johnson’s brutal death. It was interesting that Taylor, who never saw her attacked, stated that the rapist was “probably” a black man. By stating this, all Caucasian men were eliminated as potential suspects for the crime. McConnell also proved that Hixon had not actually seen Johnson carrying a strap like he had previously mentioned and that he had used information provided by McConnell to incriminate Johnson. Hixon never provided a statement in his defense and his accusations should have been disregarded. In addition, it took Hixon three days to respond to Shipp and to possibly claim money. This gave Hixon time to create an alibi as he devised a fictional, but persuasive story to incriminate Johnson. McReynolds, the presiding judge in Johnson’s case, actually misled Johnson’s attorneys and caused them to miss the deadline to submit their appeal. The account stated how shocked Judge McReynolds was at the idea of an appeal and that he lied to prevent one from being issued. He also wanted to preserve the jail building and not have it demolished by a mob. Finally, the Supreme Court found Shipp responsible for Johnson’s death as he Shipp failed to sufficiently guard the jail on the night that the lynch mob struck. According to Baker, a criminal in the jail, all the prisoners, except Johnson and him, had been moved to the first floor that day – what a coincidence! The one guard who was guarding the cell actually gave the key to the mob suggesting that everything had been planned out well in advance.
Judge McReynolds Shipp’s courtroom trail
I think the image of the scene at the bridge where Johnson was hanged gives a powerfull view of the hatred many white people had towards blacks and it also gives a sense of how these people felt they could do whatever they felt and get away with it. People took this case and used it as an excuse to execute a black person; not caring weather the man was guilty or not. The image shows how accepted this was in the south and truely gives a powerful look at what black people had to go through in the south throughout this time period.
One part of the document that stuck out for me was the way that the people of this community almost made the victim say that it was a black man and then say that it was the black man that they had arrested. The people of this town convinced the victim that Johnson was the man when she truely did not get a good look at the true man who had done this to her. The rape gave the people an excuse to hang a blackman and put blame on someone when the police were coming up empty after a few days. The fact that the reward was going up also made me suspicious because people are now willing to give false information just to recieve the reward, and poor Johnson was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The last thing that realy surprised me was the fact that the people responsible for the hanging of Johnson were able to get away with it with just a slap on the wrist. 90 days for a murder is nothing, and these people were free after they served their time and they were congraulated as heros when they returned from jail. The way black people were viewed in this time in the south is sickening and white people were able to get away with these type of actions with virtually no punnishment. Also once a black man was accused of a crime as serious as wrape it seems like they stand no chance even if they are innocent, being accused was a death sentance in the south at this time period, and people got away with these actions.
“Johnson said he spent the evening of January 23 working as a pool room porter at the Last Chance Saloon, arriving around 4:30 and staying until about 10:00. Thirteen witnesses followed Johnson to the stand, each swearing that he had seen Johnson at the Last Chance around the time he was allegedly in a cemetery raping Nevada Taylor.”
I believe this is some of the most significant evidence supporting Johnson’s innocence. There was only one man who “witnessed” Johnson in the area of the crime, and his view was obstructed by moving vehicles, yet his word overruled that of all thirteen witnesses claiming that Johnson was elsewhere at the time of the crime. This suggests that the officials of the court and the people of Chattanooga were more concerned with condemning any black man rather than finding the real person who raped Taylor.
“For two minutes, Ed Johnson's body "jerked with life" as it swayed one hundred feet above the Tennessee River, then it stopped. Johnson was pulled back up to the bridge. His head moved. A barrage of bullets ended his life. A leader of the mob pinned a sheet of paper to Johnson's body. The note read: "To Justice Harlan. Come and get your nigger now."”
This is another account of how unnecessarily brutal blacks were treated by whites. This also supports the idea that they just wanted Johnson killed for the sake of killing a black man. The brutality was clearly not necessary if they wanted “just” kill him. The quote also provides evidence towards the prevalence of lynching in the United States. For actions like this to gain so much support from the public at that time is bewildering to me. Today, I think communities come together in times of distress for the purpose of helping a person, family, or whatever the situation might be. This was clearly a case of the community coming together (at least a majority of it) to bring one of its members down.
“A key witness for the prosecution was a John Stonecipher, a Georgia contractor who had talked with some leaders of the mob at a saloon just hours before the lynching. According to Stonecipher, a man named Frank Ward said to him as he stood on a curb waiting for a car to go home, "We want you to help us lynch that damn nigger tonight." Stonecipher replied with the suggestion, "I believe Sheriff Shipp would shoot the red-hot stuff out of you." "No," answered Ward, "it is all agreed. There won't be a sheriff or deputy there."”
This also shows the prevalence of the lynching in the United States at this time. As mentioned in the previous quote, a significant number of people supported this lynching, including law officials. For a sheriff and deputy to not only support, but play a significant role in executing the plans is disturbing. It’s more disturbing that there were many accounts similar to that of Stonecipher, yet the court still had a difficult time making its decision.
1. According to the Chattanooga justice of the peace A. J. Ware, Nick Nolan and Luther Williams were both seen to have been not only conspiring in the murder of Ed Johnson, but actually carrying it out. I notice there is no rebuttal on behalf of the defense that would debunk the testimony of an eyewitness like Ware. Why were they only convicted on charges of conspiracy?
2. Has there ever been any mention that the KKK may have played a role in this story, either in the courts on the district or state level, or in regards to all the acts of vandalism and threats made on those who carried favor with Ed Johnson before and after his lynching?
3. In regards to the threats and examples of vandalism that were mentioned in the account, would it have been likely for there to have been any sort of investigating into acts like these, or was there usually no hope in having justice served here either?
The Map of the Rape Scene:
After reading Douglas Linder’s account seeing the maps really helps to put a picture into my head of the location of the happenings. I mean they clearly give a description of the whereabouts of the rape but to visualize it makes it all the more real.
The Map of the lynching:
This map too helped to make me understand how the captured Ed Johnson and pulled him nearly 10 blocks to the bridge to be killed by a lynching. This map gives me a clear description of the steps the protestors took to get Johnson to where he would have been hung.
I feel that a map is always usual in trying to understand circumstances of the time. It helps to give exact whereabouts and more importantly a time frame.
After looking at the lynching statistics it is quite clear that this method of punishment was used quite frequently. Even more interesting is that this case makes you wonder which lynching could be considered “just“ under the law.
These statistics prove that lynching really is the prevalent method during this time period in history. I still can not understand why this would be the prevalent form of punishment for many people including blacks and whites.
“Shipp asked Taylor what she could remember of the attack. She couldn't recall much, but told the Sheriff was a little below average height, had muscular arms, and wore a black outfit and a hat, and had "a soft, kind voice." Shipp asked, "Was the man white or Negro?" Taylor answered that she wasn't sure--she hadn't gotten a good look at him--, then said she thought he was black.”
“The pressure to make an arrest was intense. Shipp publicly announced an award of $50 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Taylor's attacker. Taylor's employer added $50 more, then the Governor put of another $200. With additional contributions from St. Elmo are residents the reward pot grew to $375--a very substantial sum in 1906. ”
~ It seems that this would be a very embarrassing event for a family and this may be the reason for such pressure to find the one that did it. I do think it is strange that she went unconscious and never said that she passed out from being frightened or that she was knocked unconscious.
“On Thursday, Will Hixon, a man who worked at a medicine company near the cemetery reported that he had seen a black man "twirling a leather strap around his finger" shortly before 6 p.m. on the evening of the rape. Hixon called Shipp later to say that he had just seen that same black man walking north toward town with a tall black man. Finding the tall black man alone, Shipp learned that his companion--and now prime suspect--was a drifter and sometimes carpenter named Ed Johnson.”
~ This is interesting because there is no factual backing behind this black man being the rapist. Also, the girl said that the man was “below average height” and this man was tall.
“Prosecutor Whitaker then asked Taylor if the man who attacked her was present in the courtroom. "I believe he is the man," said Taylor, pointing to Ed Johnson.”
A Chattanooga Sermon
“[A sermon delivered at the First Baptist Church in Chattanooga on March 25, 1906 (the Sunday following the lynching of Ed Johnson) by Dr. Howard E. Jones. The First Baptist Church was Chattanooga's largest and most established church. Its congregation was white. The Thursday night after Reverend Jones delivered his courageous sermon, his house was set on fire.]”
“But owing to their haste to get at their bloody business, they destroyed with sledges the usefulness of the keys and for two hours, they toiled at the steel bolts which were more loyal to Chattanooga's interest than all of her citizenship. But where are the police and where are the thousands who should have and could have defended us against an unspeakable disgrace?”
“They are not in pursuit of justice, but lawless revenge.”
“"Ah, Ah," but you say, "we were afraid." Afraid? Afraid of what? Afraid of the most vicious, Godless, ignorant and depraved of the white men of this community. Why did we not stop and consider that anarchy was already reigning in our midst, when a community was terrorized into a weak compro-mise with its most dangerous citizens.”
“Not only a fair trial should have been given to Ed Johnson, but a fair trial should also have been given to every member of that mob who could be apprehended. No arrest has been made. No, don't blame the officers altogether. No great, big, strong man stood up in this community and cried aloud in the name of law and justice for the arrest of those men.”
“Think of the number of people who today only know us as a city where fifty hoodlums can terrify us into passive submission to lawless barbarism. But the largest injury to the community has not yet been realized. Just as the demoralizing effects of war are felt for generations, so a season of lawlessness such as we have just gone through is as far reaching in its baneful efforts. Whatsoever a man or a community soweth, that shall they also reap. What a lesson for our children!”