Lynching of Sam Hose

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Lynching of Sam Hose
Location Coweta County, Georgia, U.S.
Date April 23, 1899
Attack type

Sam Hose, a.k.a. Sam Holt, a.k.a. Samuel "Thomas" Wilkes, né Tom Wilkes (c. 1875 – April 23, 1899) was an African American who was tortured and executed by a white lynch mob in Coweta County, Georgia.

Personal life[edit]

Sam Hose was born Tom Wilkes[1] in south Georgia near Marshallville (Macon County), circa 1875. He grew up on a Macon County farm owned by the Jones family; his mother was a long-time slave of the family.[citation needed]


Wilkes moved to Coweta County, where he assumed the alias Sam Hose.[1] On April 12, 1899, he was accused of murdering his employer, Alfred Cranford, after a heated argument.[2] Hose had requested time off to visit his mother, who was ill.[2] Alfred Cranford threatened to kill Hose, and pointed a gun at him. Hose was working at the time with an ax in his hands. Due to the threat, he defended himself and threw the ax, killing Cranford.[3] Wilkes fled the scene, and the search for him began shortly thereafter. Over the next few days, furor was caused by rumors suggesting that Wilkes sexually assaulted Cranford's wife, Mattie Cranford, and assaulted his infant child.[1] On April 23, 1899, Hose was apprehended in Marshallville, and returned by train to Coweta County.[1]

Following events[edit]

The public lynching of Samuel "Tom" Wilkes, in 1899

A mob removed Hose from the train at gunpoint in Newnan, Georgia.[2] Former Governor William Yates Atkinson and Judge Alvan Freeman pleaded with the crowd to release Hose to the custody of the authorities.[4] Ignoring their pleas, the crowd moved northward toward the Cranford home.[1] The lynch mob grew, reaching an estimated 500 individuals, though some accounts purport around 2000.[1] Once news of the capture reached Atlanta, large crowds boarded trains to Newnan. Mistakenly believing that these trains were loaded with troops, the mob stopped just north of Newnan.[1]

Removed body parts for sale[edit]

Newspapers reported that Hose's ears, fingers and genitals were severed before his death. The skin from his face was removed and his body was doused with kerosene.[1] He was tied to a tree and burned alive. Some members of the mob cut off pieces of his dead body as souvenirs. According to Philip Dray's At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, the noted civil rights leader and scholar W. E. B. Du Bois, who lived in Atlanta at the time, was on his way to a scheduled meeting with Atlanta Constitution editor Joel Chandler Harris to discuss the lynching, when he was informed that Hose's knuckles were for sale in a grocery store on the road on which he was walking. He turned around and did not meet with Harris after learning this. Du Bois had until then believed that lynching was an aberrant phenomenon, and that he could use reason and a sense of fairness to appeal to the majority of the white community. The spectacular nature of Hose's lynching and the sale of body parts convinced him otherwise.[5]

Post-lynching investigation[edit]

The actions of the lynch mob were condemned throughout most of the United States and Europe.[2] A group of prominent citizens in Chicago, led by journalist and activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, hired detective Louis P. Le Vin to investigate the Hose lynching. Le Vin's entire report was published in Chapter IV of the Ida B. Wells-Barnett article, Lynch Law in Georgia.

Le Vin stated that he spent over one week in his investigation. He concluded that Hose acted in self-defense, and whites added the rape allegation to incite a lynching. Le Vin stated that his conclusions were gathered from interviews with "persons he met in Griffin, Newman [sic], Atlanta and the vicinity". He does not provide the name of any individual who provided information, probably because of their fear of reprisals for speaking out publicly. He stated that he was unable to speak to Mattie Cranford, because she "was still suffering from the awful shock". Le Vin's report stated "that Wilkes killed Cranford there is no doubt, but under what circumstances can never be proven". Le Vin concluded his report with the statement, "I made my way home thoroughly convinced that a Negro's life is a very cheap thing in Georgia". In Lynch Law in Georgia, he stated:

The real purpose of these savage demonstrations is to teach the Negro that in the South he has no rights that the law will enforce. Samuel Hose was burned to teach the Negroes that no matter what a white man does to them, they must not resist.[6]

Historian Leon Litwack states, in Trouble In Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow, that during an investigation by a white detective, separate from the Wells-organised investigation, Cranford's wife Mattie revealed that Hose had never entered the house, and had acted in self-defense against her husband.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Hose Lynching Infamous Chapter In Local History", Times-Herald, archived from the original on 2015-09-04 
  2. ^ a b c d Grem, Darren E. (2006). "Sam Jones, Sam Hose, and the Theology of Racial Violence". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 90 (1): 35–61. JSTOR 40584885. (Subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ Mitch Jeserich (July 20, 2011), "Interview with Lawrence Goldstone about Goldstone's book Inherently Unequal-The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court 1865–1903", Letters and Politics, KPFK 90.7FM 
  4. ^ "At the Stake". The Indianapolis Journal. 1899-04-24. Retrieved 2017-04-05. 
  5. ^ Dray, Philip (2002). At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America. Random House. pp. 14–15. ISBN 978-0-375-50324-5. 
  6. ^ Wells-Barnett, Ida. "Lynch Law in Georgia". The Library of Congress. Retrieved 26 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Litwack, Leon (27 July 1999). Trouble In Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow. Vintage Books. ISBN 0375702636. [page needed]

External links[edit]