Tom Brunson

Tom Brunson

March 15, 1893-

Munn’s Mill, Pike County, Alabama

On March 15, 1893, a mob of 400 people left Tom Brunson swinging from a tree by his neck for an all-white crowd to witness, shortly after he was accused of raping a white woman, Mrs. Charles Senn, daughter of the respected Reverend D. C. Allen. Brunson allegedly knocked on the door and asked for Mr. Senn, pretending to have business with him. Mrs. Senn became frightened because he was asking too many questions and attempted to go to a neighbor’s house, at which point Brunson allegedly attacked her. She reported that he hit her with a big stick, pulled a knife, choked, kicked, abused, and raped her, leaving her to die. Newspapers indicate that Brunson was well known in the area, having lived there for at least four years, which allowed Mrs. Senn to easily identify him as her attacker.

The news of this assault spread quickly across Pike County and a large posse formed to search for Brunson. The mob reportedly included “many of the best men of the county,” none of whom bothered to hide their identities, indicating their confidence that, like the vast majority of lynch mobs, they would never face trial for their crime. This phrase, common in reports of lynchings, also served to convince readers that the lynching was justified, or else the “best people” would not have participated. The armed mob caught up to Brunson in neighboring Coffee County, and on the afternoon after the crime, a crowd of hundreds hanged Brunson at Munn’s Mill, at the time a mill and a recreational area, and currently the location where Highway 231 crosses the Pea River south of Brundidge, AL. Hundreds of people drove and even walked for miles to watch Brunson’s lynching, and the crowd reportedly showed no remorse or signs of grief. As the mob lynched Tom Brunson, he allegedly confessed to the crime, another common line included in newspaper reports of lynchings, presumably to eliminate readers’ fears that the wrong man might have been killed. After Brunson’s coerced confession and hanging, the mob burned his body.

While contemporary accounts showed no interest in Brunson outside of his alleged crime, merely theorizing that “he [now] basks in the heated regions prepared for rapists,” they demonstrated more concern for the fate of Mrs. Senn.  One paper reported that she was in critical condition and that she might die, although another more optimistically reported that she lived and that she was recovering well.

In reporting the lynching of Tom Brunson, several newspapers recounted that another “black rapist” had been found and lynched during the search for Brunson. This possible second victim, like many targets of lynching and racial violence, remained unnamed, although the impact of violence and the attitude that drove it continues.

“Avenged! Tom Brunson, The Brute, is Hunted Down by an Armed Posse,” Troy Messenger, 16 Mar 1893, p. 5.

“Negro Run Down and Lynched,” Star-Gazette (Elmire, NY), 16 Mar 1893, p. 1.

“A Ravisher Lynched,” Topeka Daily Press, 16 Mar 1893, p. 1.

“A Negro Fiend Lynched by Infuriated Citizens,” Times-Picayune, 16 Mar 1893, p. 6.

Ozark Banner-Advertiser (AL), 16 Mar 1893, p. 3.

“He Paid the Penalty,” Eufaula Daily Times, 17 Mar 1893, p. 1.

“The Mob Caught Them,” Atlanta Constitution, 17 Mar 1893, p. 1.

“More Lynching,” Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, 17 Mar 1893, p. 1.

“News Notes,” St. Joseph Herald, 17 Mar 1893, p. 8.

“An Alabama Lynching,” Salt Lake Herald, 17 Mar 1893, 1.

“A Quiet Neck-Breaking,” Montgomery Weekly Advertiser, 17 Mar 1893, p. 6.

“The State News,” Piedmont Inquirer (AL), 18 Mar 1893, p. 1.

“Tom Brunson’s Body is Burned,” Weekly Advertiser (Montgomery, AL), 21 Mar 1893, p. 3.

Greenville Advocate (AL), 22 Mar 1893, p. 4.

Staunton Spectator and Vindicator (VA), 22 Mar 1893, p. 2.

“Burned after the Hanging,” Times and News (Eufaula, AL), 23 Mar 1893, p. 4.

“Short Locals,” Troy Messenger, 23 Mar 1893, p. 5.

“He Paid the Penalty,” Times and News (Eufaula, AL), 23 Mar 1893, p. 2.

Covington Crescent (Andalusia, AL), 24 Mar 1893, p. 2.

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