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Lynchable Offenses in Alabama, 1889–1920

(According to the complete record of lynchings in Alabama from 1871 to 1920—compiled by Monroe M. Work, Director, Department of Records and Research, Tuskegee Institute, at the request of Marie Bankhead Owen, Director, Alabama Department of Archives and History—from 1889 to 1920: 240 black men, 33 white men, 10 black women, one white woman, and one man, race not given, were lynched in Alabama.)

Murder, of course, and rape,
robbery and miscegenation,
but also being a desperado,
incendiarism, testifying
against whites, being an outlaw,
arson, barn burning, political
activity, alleged arson,
giving evidence, burglary,
incest, turning state’s evidence,
passing counterfeit money,
elopement with a white girl,
being mistaken for another,
murderous assault, giving
evidence against “White Caps,”
paying attention to a white girl,
accomplice in a murder,
being unknown in name or offense,
mistaken identity, race prejudice,
rape and murder, complicity
in a murder, robbery and shooting,
criminal assault, dynamiting,
insulting white woman,
attempted attack on woman,
murder of deputy sheriff,
being whipped by landlord
Sam Spicer and out of revenge
later shooting Mrs. Spicer,
being half-witted and frightening
women and children near Birmingham,
burglarizing a store, shooting a white man,
dangerously wounding a Deputy Sheriff,
poisoning mules, being released
on bail, robbing a store, highway
robbery and not giving enough of road
to white men and being insolent,
making unruly remarks, being reported
to have fired a gun and boasting
of getting a policeman, killing an officer
of the law, not reported, having killed
a policeman, raping a six-year-old girl,
murderous assault on white woman
and having a father accused of rape
of same white woman, insulting
a woman, striking a man with iron
pipe and fractioning his skull.

The 2015 Charter Oak Award for Best Historical

We are pleased to announce this poem as a Notable Mention for The 2015 Charter Oak Award for Best Historical, honoring the independent press’ best writing on historical topics. The winners are selected by an external panel that judges all pieces blindly and selects the full list of 12 finalists from hundreds of entries. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final. Notable Mentions receive publication on The Current and publication in the print journal, Footnote: A Literary Journal of History.

Jesseca Cornelson is an assistant professor of English at Alabama State University. She has been an artist-in-residence in the Platte Clove Artists-in-Residence Program, and her poems have appeared in Platte Valley Review, Salamander, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and elsewhere.

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