I am reading a prize-winning history by Philip Dray, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: A History of Lynching of Black America (2002). A Pulitzer-prize finalist, I don’t recommend the book to either the weak-of-heart or the weak-of-stomach.
Mr. Dray does not attempt a complete account of all lynchings in the United States, and North Carolina and New Bern, are, fortunately, not mentioned often, but when they are, at least in three incidents, mistakes of either omission or commission are made. New Bern is mentioned as follows:
In 1919 a lynching occurred of a man accused of murdering someone at the Roper Lumber Company, then on North Craven Street. But the lynching did not subsequently occur in New Bern, as Dray relates. The suspect was hustled to Onslow County for safekeeping where a mob, nevertheless, killed him in his cell by shooting.
Not mentioned is an incident occurring in 1905 and recounted in John Green’s A New Bern Album (1985.) A black man accused of attacking a woman in Clarks was taken to the Craven County Jail, then near the courthouse at the corner of Broad and Craven.
In the early morning hours a mob overcame the sheriff, took the victim to the old Neuse River bridge (then at the foot of Johnson Street) and hanged him from a bridge trestle (and shot him repeatedly).
A more egregious error in the narrative, at least in my opinion, is Mr. Dray’s telling readers Strom Thurmond was a NC Senator.
Pardon me- Mr. Dray’s book may have earned a Pulitzer nomination, and I very much think it deserves it, but putting Thurmond in North Carolina also earns Dray’s proof-readers and editors, not to mention Dray himself, dunce awards.
Our senators have included some of the worst- let’s not add to the historical record one of South Carolina’s own.