On this dayAug 12, 1903
After Failed Lynching Attempt, White Reign of Racial Terror Forces Black Residents to Flee Texas Town
On August 12, 1903, after a white mob attempted to lynch a Black man and failed in their efforts, armed white residents engaged in widespread racial terrorism that forced Black residents to flee Whitesboro, Texas.
Lynching was a tool of racial terror used to maintain white supremacy and dominance by instilling fear in the entire Black community. It was common during this era of racial terrorism for a white mob’s focus to expand beyond a specific person accused of an offense. Lynch mobs frequently targeted members of a suspect’s family, neighbors, or any and all Black people unfortunate enough to be in the mob’s path, and it was not uncommon for Black people in the vicinity of white mobs to be beaten or killed as collateral violence.
Earlier in the day, a Black man, known only as “Brown,” had been arrested after a local white woman reported that she had been criminally assaulted by a Black man. He was taken from jail by a mob of at least 100 white men and boys and hanged from a tree as the mob attempted to violently coerce a confession from him. This violence rendered him unconscious and the mob believed him to be dead and dispersed. However, a sheriff's posse cut him down, determined that he was still alive, and took him back into custody.
As news spread that they had failed in their attempt to lynch this Black man, the white mob unleashed a reign of terror on the entire Black community in Whitesboro. The mob went from house to house in the town’s Black neighborhood, destroying the homes, beating the Black people inside, and ordering all of them to leave Whitesboro. The mob posted notices demanding that all Black people leave the town at once. Black people fled by train that night, with contemporary news sources reporting that “outgoing trains on all roads were filled” with Black people. Hundreds of shots were reportedly fired by the armed mob, but the death toll of the terror remains unknown. Local authorities made no attempt to protect the town’s Black residents.
A few days later, armed white men rounded up the few remaining Black people in town, reported as just 17 people. The mob tied these 17 individuals to trees and whipped them mercilessly, ordering them again to leave town. Contemporary reports noted that after the conclusion of this violence, not a single Black person remained in Whitesboro.
Learn more about how over 6,500 Black women, men, and children were victims of racial terror lynching and thousands more were displaced, beaten, and traumatized by white mob violence in the U.S. between 1865-1950.