Friday, October 16, 2015

October 21, 1916: Anthony Crawford

Today we learn about the lynching of a South Carolina man through the pages of the Keowee Courier (Pickens, S. C.) dated October 25, 1916:


Negro Lynched As Result of Controversy With White Man.

Abbeville, Oct. 21.—Anthony Crawford, a negro, was taken from the county jail here by a crowd of 200 men and his body riddled with bullets after he was hung to A tree this afternoon about 3:30 o'clock.

The trouble began this morning when Crawford, who is reputed to have been wealthy, got into a dispute with one of the cotton seed buyers. A crowd quickly gathered, determined to punish Crawford for his rough language, but trouble was averted for a while by Policeman Botts, who took Crawford to police headquarters, where he was released on bond.

A few minutes later Crawford was seen at a cotton gin not very far from the scene, and the crowd, still anxious to punish him, went for him.

Crawford had a sledge hammer in his hand, with which he struck M. B. Cann on the head, crushing his skull and inflicting a very serious wound.

When the crowd finished with Crawford it was thought he would die. He was removed to the county jail.

When it was learned this afternoon that he was not dead another crowd gathered, forced the door of the jail and dragged Crawford to the edge of town, near the fair grounds, where he was strung up to a tree and filled with bullets.

Mr. Cann, who was struck with the hammer, was reported by his brother as resting fairly well to-night.

The New York Age (New York, N. Y.) dated November 9, 1916:


We clip the following dispatch from the Columbia State, perhaps the most influential newspaper in South Carolina:

Abbeville.—As a consequence of the lynching here Saturday of
Anthony Crawford, a well to do Negro, it was decided at a meeting
held this afternoon that the victim's family be advised to leave Abbe-
ville county before November 15. The action, taken on the declared 
ground that it was for the sake of peace and the best interest of the
county, followed a number of speeches. The meeting was attended
by several hundred citizens.

As related in last week's Age, Anthony Crawford was lynched on a charge not even remotely connected with the "usual crime," but on account of an altercation between himself and a white man. We are informed that Crawford was a well-to-do farmer and the owner of about five hundred acres of land. He left five sons who, by the resolution adopted at this citizen's meeting, must leave Abbeville county before November 15.

Here we have a form of lawlessness which in cruelty is second only to lynching. If these Crawford boys are guilty of any crime, they should be arrested and tried by due process of law. If they are not the meeting of the citizens of Abbeville should have been called to invoke the law to protect these boys against any persecution that might arise from the feeling against their father. Such an action would really have been "for the sake of peace and the best interest of the county."

A snippet from the November 23, 1916 edition of the same paper:


. . . The Rev. W. C. Crawford, of Abbeville, S. C., whose father, Anthony Crawford, was lynched a few days ago, passed through the city recently. More than 1,000 colored persons have left Abbeville. Rev. Crawford reports they are also leaving the adjacent counties of Anderson and Greenwood.

The Appeal (Saint Paul, Minnesota) dated December 2, 1916:

The Abbeville lynching was personally investigated, on the ground, by Roy Nash, Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the following is his report:

New York, Nov. 22.—Governor Richard I. Manning, of South Carolina, as a result of the recent lynching of Anthony Crawford, at Abbeville, has taken a stand which promises to clear the name of his State of the stigma which attached to it during the administration of his predecessor, the notorious Cole Blease. Governor Manning, in a statement given out to the press on the day before election, says:

"I was out of the State when the Abbeville lynching occurred. As soon as I learned of it I called Solicitor R. A. Cooper and Sheriff R. M. Burts of Abbeville to the office and called on Coroner F. W. R. Nance of Abbeville County to comply with the law and furnish me with a copy of the testimony taken at the coroner's inquest. I found the coroner held an inquest but took no testimony.

"Solicitor Cooper and Sheriff Burts came to my office and I requested them to secure the names of all parties connected with the affair, those who took part in the whipping, in the taking of the Negro from the jail, in the lynching, and all those who were at the meeting reported to have been held on the following Monday. I have requested Solicitor Cooper and Sheriff Burts to make a complete investigation of the whole matter and get the names of all parties concerned and to swear out warrants and arrest them.

"I intend to do everything in my power to uphold the law and let the offenders know that such acts will not be tolerated, and that those guilty of violating the law must suffer for it. I have requested Solicitor Cooper as the States representative and Sheriff Burts as the highest peace officer in the county, to leave no stone unturned in order to vindicate the law and all the powers of the governor's office are at their disposal in bringing the guilty ones to justice."

The lynching referred to occurred on October 21 in one of South Carolina's most beautiful and progressive cities. Anthony Crawford, the victim, was a Negro fifty-one years old worth over $20,000. He got into a row with a white storekeeper named Barksdale over the price of cottonseed. It is reported that Mr. Barksdale called him a liar and Crawford cursed him roundly in return, whereupon a clerk ran out to give Crawford a beating with an axe handle. He was saved from this by a policeman who arrested Crawford and took him to the municipal building, but when they let him out on bail a crowd of men took after him again intent on punishing him for daring to curse a white man.

"The day a white man hits me is the day I die," Anthony Crawford once said to a friend. When he saw the crowd coming after him, he went down in the boiler room of the gin, picked up a four-pound hammer, and waited. the first man who came at him, McKinney Cann, received a blow in the head which fractured his skull, but someone hurled a stone which knocked out Crawford before he reached anyone else. While he was down, they knifed him in the back and kicked him until they thought they had finished him, when they permitted the sheriff to arrest the unconscious Crawford on condition that he would not take his prisoner out of town until they knew whether Cann would live or die.

Cann wasn't hurt as badly as they thought, but nevertheless a mob went back to the jail at four o'clock that afternoon, took the keys and guns away from the sheriff and jailor [sic], dragged Crawford through the streets of the Negro quarter with a rope around his neck, hung his mutilated body to a pine tree at the entrance to the fair grounds, and expended a couple of hundred rounds of ammunition at it.

On Monday a meeting was called in the Abbeville courthouse at which it was decided  to order the sixteen sons and daughters of Crawford and their families to abandon their $20,000 home  and get out of the State by November 15. After the meeting this mob proceeded to close up all the Negro shops in Abbeville.

The Columbia State, in a powerful editorial, pointed out that in view of the exodus of Negro labor from the South to northern industrial fields and the approach of the boll weevil, South Carolina's problem was to keep her colored men instead of serving notice on them that no matter how industrious or successful they might be, their case was absolutely hopeless. It so convinced the businessmen of Abbeville that they had lynched their own pocket-books, that on November 6 another meeting was held in the court-house at which the following resolutions were unanimously passed:

"We, the citizens of the city of Abbeville, in mass meeting assembled, do hereby express in unqualified terms our disapproval of the recent violent acts of certain persons committed in our community, and the spirit of lawlessness that seems rife in the county, resulting in continued acts of lawlessness it is,

"RESOLVED:  That the Sheriff of Abbeville County, the Mayor of Abbeville, the Police Force, and every officer of the county and city, be urged to use every effort to enforce the law and to protect the citizens of the town and county regardless of condition or color.

"RESOLVED FURTHER:  That we do hereby pledge ourselves as individuals to give to the officers of the law our physical support in maintaining the law.

"RESOLVED FURTHER:  That if it be necessary to carry out this determination that the aid of the State and Federal Government be called in order that every citizen may enjoy his rights under the constitution.

"RESOLVED FURTHER:  That a committee with Capt. J. L. Perrin as Chairman, be appointed for the purpose of ascertaining what can be done towards the organization of a local military company for the protection of the citizens of this county and for maintaining order in our midst. That this committee be empowered to act in the premises.

"RESOLVED FURTHER:  That EVERY CITIZEN OF THE TOWN OF ABBEVILLE BE ASSURED the protection of the men of this meeting as long as he obeys the laws of the state, and pursues only his own legitimate business.

"RESOLVED FURTHER:  That a meeting of the law-abiding citizens of Abbeville County be called to meet in this Court House on next Monday at noon to perfect an organization for enforcing law and order in this county, and that every community in the county be represented at this meeting, and that steps be taken to show to the people of the state and United States that the men of Abbeville County will defend the law, and protect the citizens of the commonwealth in the enjoyment of all rights guaranteed by the law."

At the meeting on November 13 the above resolutions were endorsed by prominent citizens from all parts of the county, and a committee of twelve men are to be appointed, "who shall have for their duties the furtherance of the ends sought by the meeting, by taking up with the citizens of the county the matters discussed and endeavoring to bring about a proper understanding between the people of the county, and a due observance of the laws of the land."

As a further guarantee that the Crawford family is to be defended in their right to live in South Carolina and enjoy the property accumulated by three generations, governor Manning has written Mr. Oswald Garrison Villard, vice-president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as follows:

"I realize the gravity of this offense and am determined to do everything in my power to bring the offenders to justice. I have called on the Sheriff of Abbeville County to take the necessary steps to prevent any unlawful action with regard to the expulsion of the family of Crawford.

I am giving serious consideration to this matter with a view to making recommendations to the Legislature, so as to be able to deal with such conditions when they arise."

Another paper claimed that Crawford had nine sons instead of the five in the article I provided. Thank you for joining me and as always, i hope I leave you with something to ponder.


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