Ellisville, Mississippi — site of the one of the worst lynchings of the Red Summer

Ellisville, in Jones County, Mississippi is a small town set down in Piney woodlands in the southeastern part of the state. Like other southern towns, it has antique shops, a struggling downtown, a monument to the Confederate dead near the courthouse. In this town on June 26, 1919, a black man named John Hartfield was lynched before as many as 10,000 gathered whites. Accused of assaulting a white woman, Hartfield was pursued by posses for weeks until being mortally wounded and captured. The mob took the wounded Hartfield to a doctor to keep him alive for 24 hours, then announced his coming executing. The NAACP urged the governor and the federal government to intervene. Both did nothing and Hartfield was strung up on a tree and show to pieces. Parts of his body and postcards of his killing were sold as souvenirs.

The lynching is discussed in chapter 8 of Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America.

Historical sidenote.

The Jones County courthouse was built in 1908. At its entrance are two water fountains, one on each side. As you can see below, they now have plaques that give the date of the building’s opening. But the fountains once bore very different signs, one for whites and one for blacks during segregation.