Monday, May 9, 2016

June 20 - 22, 1940: Elbert Williams

Today we learn about a lynching in Tennessee through the pages of the Kingsport Times (Kingsport, Tennessee) dated June 28, 1940:

'Lynched' Negro Was Questioned, Marshal Says

Brownsville, Tenn.—AP—Everett Williams, 33-year-old negro whose unexplained death is scheduled for investigation by a special session of the Haywood County grand jury, was picked up and held for questioning by city police June 20, the night of his disappearance, night City Marshall Tip Hunter said today.

Williams' body was found Sunday in Hatchie river swamps. A coroner's jury said it believed the negro met death "by violence at the hands of unknown parties."

At a Memphis interracial relations meeting this week, Mrs. Jesse Daniel Ames of Atlanta, Field Secretary of the Commission of Interracial Relations said she had been informed a Brownsville negro had been "quietly taken out and flogged to death" because of his interest in negro affairs.

Marshall Hunter said police questioned Williams and another negro after receiving reports the pair had called a meeting of Brownsville negroes to discuss interracial problems.

"I turned them loose and they both walked away from the station unmolested," Hunter declared. "I didn't see anything that looked like a lynching party, either white or colored."

Mayor John O. Bomer of Brownsville declared the city "is shocked over the entire affair and this lynching, if that is what happened to the negro, is deeply regretted by the majority of our town."

The New York Age (New York, N. Y. ) dated July 27, 1940 tells a slightly different tale and one that points more definitely at a lynching and a reason for the lynching:


Elisha Davis In Hiding Reveals His Wife Is About To Have Baby

An urgent and tragic appeal has been received by the NAACP here from Tennessee asking for assistance for Elisha Davis, one of the half dozen men driven from their homes by mobs in Brownsville, Tenn., in the middle of June because they inquired about their right to vote in the November presidential election.

A letter from a town in Tennessee where Mr. Davis is in hiding reveals that his wife expects to become a mother in less than five months. The Davises already have seven children.

In the town where Mr. Davis is seeking safety from the mob, he is unable to secure work, mostly because of his fear that he will be hunted down and killed by white persons from Brownsville. Already on two occasions, white people from Brownsville have made inquiries in the town where he is staying as to his whereabouts.

One Lynched Already

A Brownsville mob already has lynched Elbert Williams, 33, as a part of the terror being imposed upon Negroes for their attempt to register and vote.

The open threats against Negroes have quieted down somewhat because the NAACP has intervened in Washington to secure an investigation by Department of Justice agents, but the situation is fraught with great danger.

The fury of the mob is directed especially against members of the Brownsville chapter of the NAACP. All efforts to hold a meeting have been broken up. The president of the Brownsville NAACP, the Rev. Buster Walker, has been driven out of town. All other colored people suspected of being members of the Brownsville chapter are being terrorized. White people have even gone to neighboring towns where they suspect the exiles to be hiding and warned that they would be killed upon sight.

Elisha Davis, who was active in the NAACP branch and who owned and operated a filling station was one of the first to be driven from the city. For more than a month, he has not been able to see his wife or children, or to comfort her while she is awaiting the eighth child. She is reported to be in need of medical attention.

No Negro newspapers are permitted to be sold in Brownsville, and the colored people there do not now whether anything is being done in their behalf or not. No strange Negroes are allowed in the city.

Despite the terror in Brownsville and vicinity and the threats against NAACP officers in other parts of Tennessee, the local officers are determined to carry on the work and have indicated that they will  not be frightened by the mobs.

The NAACP headquarters have -- appealing for contributions for the relief of the families and for the carrying on of the fight to clean up Brownsville. . . .


Following up its two previous appeals to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the situation in Brownsville, Tenn., the NAACP sent the following telegram Saturday asking that immediate steps be taken to wipe out the terror in the Tennessee town:

"We appeal once more for action by your office the safeguard the citizenship rights of American Negroes in Brownsville, Tenn. The whole situation in Brownsville arose when law-abiding property holding colored citizens of that town evidenced their desire to register and vote in the coming November election. The result of this action was the lynching of Elbert Williams, 33, and the driving from the city of a half dozen or more citizens who were members of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The entire Negro population of Brownsville has been terrorized by mobs which have extended their threats to neighboring communities believed to be sheltering exiles from Brownsville. We understand Department of Justice agents are investigating specific lynching of Elbert Williams, but we urge that the issue is much greater than this and that all possible pressure must be exerted to the end that Brownsville lynchers are punished and Brownsville Negro citizens freed from terror. Most recent authenticated story is that one Brownsville citizen proprietor of filling station and father of seven children not only dares not return home but does not accept employment in neighboring city because of threats from Brownsville whites. Meanwhile his wife is expecting eighth child and is in dire need of medical attention and financial support. Because this Brownsville situation involves lynching and the right to vote for President of the United States, this association feels it is imperative that every effort be exerted to wipe out this lawlessness at once and permit these peaceful people to pursue their normal way of life.

Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.

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