Matthew Bullock was an African American who fled to Canada and became a cause celebre in the early 1920s. Originally from Norlina, North Carolina, Bullock's saga began when his brother Plummer attempted to return 10 cents worth of apples, which he claimed were bad. The store keeper refused the request, and an argument broke out which escalated to an exchange of threats between the two men. Later that evening a group of whites confronted a group of blacks. Gunfire was exchanged, but no one was hurt. While both Bullock brothers claimed to have been several miles away from these events, they were charged with inciting a riot and Matthew Bullock was charged with intent to murder.
The next day Plummer was arrested and imprisoned in the local jail. The following morning a mob stormed the jail and lynched Plummer, and another Black man named Alf Williams. Matthew Bullock fled town, and eventually made it to Canada. There he settled in Hamilton, Ontario working in the construction industry.
When he was located in Canada in 1922 his extradition was demanded, and Bullock was imprisoned in the Hamilton jail for immigration violations. In Canada he became a cause celebre as activists insisted that he would not receive a fair trial if extradited to North Carolina, and could face the same fate as his brother. The campaign for his release was led by the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church and by the newspaper The Globe which gave extensive coverage to the case. There were five editorials about the case in the New York Times. In the United States the NAACP campaigned on Bullock's behalf, but the white residents of Norlina circulated a petition demanding his extradition. North Carolina Governor Cameron A. Morrison pressured the State Department to have Bullock returned to face trial.
On January 26, 1922 Charles Stewart, the Canadian minister of the interior, announced that Bullock would be released from detention in Hamilton, and that his illegal entry into Canada would be forgiven due to his exemplary behaviour while living in Canada. Only a few weeks later, however, the Americans reiterated their demands for extradition and Bullock was again arrested. The judge in Bullock's extradition hearing, Colin George Snider, demanded that prima facie evidence of Bullock's guilt be presented before he would be extradited. Since almost all the evidence was eye witness accounts, this would have forced the government of North Carolina to go to considerable expense transporting witnesses to Hamilton. Governor Morrison rejected this, and the Canadian judge released Bullock.
- "Hold Fugitive Negro Till Canada Decides Justice of His Plea." The Globe January 16, 1922 pg. 1
- "Bullock Goes Free on his Own Record as Good Immigrant." The Globe January 28, 1922 pg. 1
- "Bullock Safety Seems Assured." The Globe March 3, 1922 pg. 5
- Mug shot of Matthew Bullock, 1921 (cbcnews.ca)