Lynching Victim Monoliths

William H. Foote

Male, Yazoo City, Interfering With a Lynching

William H. Foote was born to a free Black family in Vicksburg. After serving in the Civil War, he enrolled at Oberlin College, attending classes until 1869. That year he was appointed as constable of Yazoo City. His political career advanced quickly. In 1870, Foote served as a state legislator, town marshal, and as circuit clerk for the town. A well-respected civil servant, Foote caught the attention of Bureau of Revenue Collector James Hill in 1880, Hill appointed Foote as a deputy collector, tasked with collecting taxes from liquor sellers and wholesalers.

On December 24, 1883 a man named John Posey brought a posse to Yazoo City, demanding to know the whereabouts of a local man, John James. Posey claimed James had slighted him and intended to whip him as punishment. Foote was pulled from a Christmas Eve church service and informed of the event taking place. Posey had James in his grasp, but Foote stepped between them hoping to diffuse the chaos as a crowd formed around them. Someone hit Foote over the head and he and ten others were arrested and put in the city jail. John James was shot and killed soon after.

On December 29, an angry mob arrived at the jail. The sheriff was gone, leaving a lone Black jailer to protect the group. The men had been indicted on charges of interfering in the punishment of James and were awaiting trial. But the mob pushed through the doors of the jail and assaulted the men. Foote fought hard against his assailants, but was shot several times in the head. The gunshots left him unrecognizable and three other men were hanged. In 2012, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) added Foote to the ATF Memorial Wall with other agents who died in the line of duty.

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Wesley Thomas

Male, Vicksburg, Attempted Assault of a White Woman

In the late afternoon hours of February 20, 1889 Wesley Thomas encountered two women, a Miss Raff and Miss Kate Pinkston outside the city limits of Vicksburg. It was reported that Wesley was drunk and attempted to assault the two women. Thomas was accused of first attempting to assault Miss Raff, who ran away, before attacking Miss Pinkston. John Littleton, a passerby and witness to the event fought with Wesley to help the woman. At one point, Thomas broke free from his grip and Littleton fired a shot to stop him. Littleton then held him down until the sheriff arrived, and Pinkston fled the scene.

Later that evening, Sheriff Rainwater removed Thomas from the jail before the mob arrived. Their absence angered the mob and they began a search party. Some of the group believed Rainwater took Thomas to Raymond while others believed he was going to Port Gibson. Rainwater had plans to remove Thomas to Natchez, and boarded him on a 1:00 a.m. train to the city. Eventually, the mob caught up with them, and he was removed from the train at Port Gibson and taken back to Vicksburg. Reports say Thomas put up no fight while being walked through town to a bridge to be lynched. 

Accounts at the time reported that the mob gave Thomas crackers to eat as they affixed the noose around his neck. The mob moved to push Thomas over the edge, but Thomas supposedly volunteered to jump. Upon doing so, the rope broke and Thomas strangled for several seconds before being pulled back. The mob moved the rope, pushed Thomas over, and let him strangle to death with a note that read: “A Warning To Rapists, White or Black.” His body remained hanging from the bridge and was never recovered. 

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Samuel Gillespie

Male, De Soto, Interfering With An Arrest

The story of Samuel Gillespie spread quickly across the newspaper wire, not for the vigilante justice carried out against him but because there was seemingly no crime at all. Reports in various newspapers all said the same thing: Samuel Gillespie was lynched, “without any apparent cause.” The details of the case were limited, but it was reported that Gillespie had interfered in the arrest of another Black man after the man was arrested for larceny in De Soto County. That man’s identity was never discovered. Deputy Sheriff Elder arrested Gillespie for this interference and was told he was to be sent to Hernando, the county seat. Instead Deputy Sheriff Elder left Gillespie in a room alone in the small town of Love. A lynch mob arrived just after midnight on July 13, 1891, entered the holding space and captured Gillespie. They took him a short distance away, tied him to a tree, and shot him to death. When the coroner arrived to remove the body, he reported 21 bullet holes.

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