August 17, 1899-
Brantley, Crenshaw County, Alabama
Newspaper reports of the lynching of Charles Hurt called it “the old story” of a “black brute” with a “hellish design” to violate a respectable white woman. On August 16, 1899, Nancy Battle, a 27 year old white woman who had lost her husband, Stephen Battle, only two months earlier, accused Hurt of attempting to assault her while she was washing her family’s clothes at her well. Allegedly, after a passing farmer prevented Hurt from assaulting Battle, Hurt returned to try again before being scared away by her screams.
That night, Marshal W.M. Thrasher of the city of Brantley pulled Hurt from his bed at his father’s house and arrested him for the attempted assault, despite Hurt’s denials of guilt. Witnesses, including Battle, identified Hurt as the assailant and he was locked in the Brantley guard house. Around midnight, an “infuriated” and “enraged” mob broke into the guard house, took Hurt to a nearby swamp, tied him to a tree, and shot him to death, “completely perforat[ing]” his body with lead. One account reported that Hurt’s father and brother “refused to have anything to do with the body,” so Hurt was buried in the swamp where he’d been shot. Claiming the bodies of lynching victims often proved difficult for the victims’ families, who could face violence from white members of the community who would have seen respectful treatment of the victim’s remains as endorsement of his alleged crimes. The inability to bury their family members with respect compounded the trauma of the lynching itself for black families and communities.
After the lynching of Charles Hurt, the local coroner called a jury of six “good and true citizens,” who could apparently obtain no clue as to the participants in the lynching, leading to a verdict of death by gunshot at the hands of persons unknown. The Montgomery Advertiser’s statement that “no one knows or cares to know anything of the identity of… those who summarily dealt out punishment to the negro” demonstrates how half-hearted any attempts to prosecute these mob members would have been. The Advertiser also praised Marshal Thrasher for his timely arrest of the “villian,” relieved him of all blame for the mob’s actions, and proclaimed that Hurt’s “bad reputation” had inspired fear throughout the area, showing the tacit if not explicit endorsement of lynching that often characterized white news coverage of and larger societal beliefs about racial violence.
“‘Twill Ever Be: Charles Hurt Shot to Death for Assaulting a Woman,” Montgomery Advertiser, 18 Aug 1899, p. 3.
“Lynched at Brantley,” Eufaula Daily Times (AL), 18 Aug 1899, p. 3.
“That Lynching,” Montgomery Advertiser, 19 Aug 1899, p. 8.
Citizens’ Journal (Troy, AL), 19 Aug 1899, p. 3.
“Chas. Hurt Mobbed!” Troy Messenger, 23 Aug 1899, p. 2.
“Would-be Rapist Killed near Brantley!” Luverne Journal (AL), 24 Aug 1899, p. 3.
“‘Twill Ever Be: Charles Hurt Shot to Death for Assaulting a Woman,” Montgomery Advertiser, 25 Aug 1899, p. 2.
“Lynching near Brantley,” Gleaner (Rutledge, AL), 25 Aug 1899, p. 4.
“Lynching in Alabama,” Wilmington Morning Star (NC), 18 Aug 1899, p. 4.
“Negro Assailant Shot Down,” Daily Press (Newport News, VA), 18 Aug 1899, p. 1.
“He Was Shot to Death,” Altoona Tribune (PA), 18 Aug 1899, p. 4.
“Judge Lynch Again,” Scranton Republican, 18 Aug 1899, p. 1.