October 5, 1895-
Perote, Bullock County, Alabama
In October, 1895, a mob of “thirty or forty white men” lynched Tobe McGrady, a young black man, near Perote in Pike County, Alabama for allegedly assaulting the wife of his employer, Gus Berry. Berry, probably not coincidentally, had been linked to previous charges of racial violence, along with his wife’s father and brother-in-law. In response to Mrs. Berry’s allegations, a mob took McGrady from the sheriff, who was transporting him to jail, and shot McGrady as he tried to escape through the woods. The claim that the sheriff was “powerless to defend” the victim appeared commonly in reports of lynchings, although in most cases likely indicates that the law enforcement participated, tacitly or actively, in the lynching, rather than actively working to protect the victim in his custody. One report suggested that “the negro had not long been in the neighborhood” reflecting another sobering reality of lynching, that while ties of community might sometimes prevent the lynching of local members of the community, newcomers more frequently faced racial violence, often as scapegoats for crimes that other people committed.
Other evidence, however, suggests that Tobe McGrady might not have been new to town. Just over three years after Tobe McGrady’s lynching, a man named Marshall McGrady was lynched in the neighboring community of Josie, about ten miles away. One report of that incident mistakenly, but perhaps tellingly, referred to the later victim as “Tobe McGrady, a son of old Tobe McGrady.” Everyone in the area at the time would have remembered the lynching of a man who did go by the name of Tobe McGrady three years earlier, just miles away. No records definitely prove whether the two victims, Tobe McGrady and Marshall McGrady, were related, but another article described Marshall, the second victim, as a “negro who had been laboring under a bad character made by his own deeds and those of his father and brother.” Possibly, the accusations that led to Tobe McGrady’s lynching in 1895 contributed to this “bad” family reputation that later haunted Marshall McGrady. Regardless of family connection or coincidence, these lynchings so close in time and geography illustrate the constant threat and widespread impact of racial violence during the Jim Crow period.
“Another One Caught,” Nashville Tennessean, 6 Oct 1895, p. 1.
“Pith of the News,” Salem Daily News (OH), 7 Oct 1895, p. 1.
“Negro Lynched by ‘Yankees,'” Daily Journal (New Bern, NC), 8 Oct 1895, p. 4.
“Lynched in Alabama,” Eufaula Daily Times, 9 Oct 1895, p. 4.
“A Brute Shot,” Troy Messenger, 9 Oct 1895, p. 3.
“The World,” Livingston Journal (AL), 10 Oct 1895, p. 3.
“Lynched in Alabama,” Eufaula Daily Times, 10 Oct 1895, p. 2.
“Another Colored Man Lynched,” Richmond Planet (VA), 19 Oct 1895, p. 3.
“Hangings in 1895,” Chicago Tribune, 1 Jan 1896, p. 2.