Lynchings & Hangings of America

An investigation resulted in the local police finding that Donald had been murdered over a drug deal gone bad. However, Beulah Mae Donald knew her son was not involved in drugs and resolved to obtain justice. Soon, Jessie Jackson and the FBI were involved and it did not take long before FBI agent, James Bodman was able to obtain a confession from James Knowles.

In June 1983, Knowles was found guilty of violating Donald’s civil rights and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Six months later, when Henry Hays was tried for murder, Knowles appeared as the chief prosecution witness. Hays was found guilty and sentenced to death.

But Beaulah Mae Donald was not yet done with her determination to obtain justice. She soon filed a civil suit against the United Klans of America. In February 1987, an all-white jury found the Klan responsible for the lynching of Michael Donald and ordered it to pay 7 million dollars. This resulted in the Klan having to hand over all its assets including its national headquarters in Tuscaloosa.

After a long-drawn-out legal struggle, Henry Hayes was executed on June 6, 1997. It was the first time a white man had been executed for a crime against an African American since 1913.

Through the years, other forms of capital punishment, such as the electric chair and more recently lethal injection, have largely replaced hanging in the U.S. today. The most recent hanging in the United States occurred on January 25, 1996, when Delaware hanged Billy Bailey; Delaware has since abolished the method. Hanging remains legal only in Washington State, which last used it to execute Charles Campbell on May 27, 1994. In 1996 the State legislature amended the law to make lethal injection the default death penalty unless the convicted person chooses to hang. Today, the gallows and firing squads are anything but public and are rarely used in the United. States.

However, hanging remains the second most widely used method of execution in the world today (the first is shooting) and in some places, they remain public. In 2002, at least 115 men and 5 women were hanged in 10 countries; in 2002, at least 99 men and 1 woman; and in 2004 at least 150 men and 7 women suffered this fate.

Lynchings: By State and Race, 1882-1968 (Statistics provided by the Archives at Tuskegee Institute)

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 Jersy 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.

©Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated October 2018.

Also See:

Civil Rights Movement

Old West Vigilantes

The Era of Reconstruction

Slavery in the United States

 

1 thought on “Lynchings & Hangings of America”

  1. I read the entirety of you piece, but not anywhere did I see a definition of “lynch.” To lynch is to punishment without the due process of law. Although most often the punishment is hanging, lynching is not synonymous with hanging, notwithstanding the articles connotes same.

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