Racially Motivated · South Carolina

Man lynched after argument over price of seeds

October 21, 1916
Abbeville, South Carolina
Anthony Crawford is lynched following an argument with a shopkeeper over the price of seeds

Crawford had visited the shop of W. D. Barksdale to sell some cotton seeds, the price of which was typically 90 cents per bushel, though Barksdale offered Crawford 85 cents a bushel instead. Crawford rejected the offer, saying he had been offered a better price elsewhere. An argument broke until Crawford left the store as he cursed at Barksdale. A store employee followed him outside and hit Crawford with an axe handle, whereupon Crawford was arrested.

A mob followed Crawford and the sheriff escorting him to the municipal building, wishing to whip Crawford (a black man) for “daring to curse a white man.” The sheriff released Crawford on $15 bail and allowed him to leave a side exit to evade the mob, though he was spotted and chased. He hid in the boiler room of a gin house, grabbing a hammer in preparation to protect himself from his pursuers. Crawford managed to hit McKinney Cann in the head, rendering him unconscious, before a member of the mob struck Crawford in the head with a stone which knocked him out as well.

Gin house workers attempted to come to Crawford’s aid, protecting him as he regained consciousness, at which point Crawford was able to run about 50 feet (15m) before he was stabbed in his back. Roy Nash, secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, reported “While he was down and bleeding, two hundred white men kicked him into unconsciousness — we spare you the rest.”

The sheriff briefly gained control of the mob, insisting they allow him to do his duty and protect Crawford. The mob agreed but ultimately changed their mind, dragging Crawford from his jail cell as he was awaiting medical assistance for his severe wounds. He was brought through the black area of town, led by a rope around his neck, as a threat to other black citizens of town. Next, the mob toured the white parts of town to display Crawford as a sort of trophy atop a lumber wagon the mob had stolen from another black citizen. By the time the mob reached the town’s fairgrounds, he had died of his injuries, though his body was hanged from a tree regardless. As a final insult, his hanging body was shot repeatedly.

It was speculated the real motivation behind the lynching was jealousy. Crawford was a wealthy and successful farmer, worth considerably more than the majority of the white farmers in town, which they resented. Between 10 and 15 men were arrested in connection with Crawford’s murder (local papers stated 10 while the Associated Press reported 15). Despite the arrests, none were charged with Crawford’s murder, and no trials were conducted.

A memorial was erected in Crawford’s honor in 2016, commemorating the 100 year anniversary of his murder.

Sources:

  • “Hundreds Dedicate Lynching Marker to Anthony Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina.” EJI. October 24, 2016. Accessed: October 21, 2018. https://eji.org/news/hundreds-dedicate-lynching-marker-anthony-crawford-abbeville-south-carolina
  • Nash, Roy. “New York Paper on Abbeville Affair.” The Herald and News [Newberry, South Caroline]. December 19, 1916
  • “How Crawford Met His Death.” The Bystander [Des Moines, Iowa]. December 15, 1916
  • “Ten Arrests Made in Abbeville Riots.” The Herald and News [Newberry, South Carolina]. December 8, 1916
  • “Anthony Crawford, a Negro of Wealth, Lynched Saturday.” Abbeville Press and Banner [Abbeville, South Carolina]. October 25, 1916

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