On this dayMar 04, 1921

Georgia Mob Lynches Black Man Walking Down Road; Later Claims Mistaken Identity

On March 4, 1921, a white mob in Baker County, Georgia searching the area to find and lynch a Black man named Zema Anthony came upon a Black man named William Anderson walking down the road and lynched him instead. 

Two days before, allegations had spread that Mr. Anthony had killed a white sheriff and shot another white man in the town of Newton, Georgia. Without investigation or trial, a mob of white men intent on lynching him gathered and began searching the county with no success. After more than a day of the fruitless manhunt, the heavily armed white mob confronted Mr. Anderson on Friday afternoon as he was simply walking down the road. Terrified, Mr. Anderson ran from the mob and the white men quickly shot him to death. 

Shortly after Mr. Anderson was killed, the body of Mr. Anthony’s aunt was reportedly found floating in a stream. At least one newspaper reported that the same lynch mob had likely killed the Black woman for allegedly harboring Mr. Anthony and helping him to avoid capture. The press coverage did not report her name.

During this era, lynching was a tool of racial terror used to maintain white supremacy and dominance by instilling fear in the entire Black community through brutal violence that was often unpredictable and arbitrary. As in the case of Mr. Anderson, it was common during this era for a lynch mob’s focus to expand beyond a specific person accused of an offense to also target members of the suspect’s family, neighbors, or any and all Black people unfortunate enough to be in the mob’s path. Many Black people were lynched not because they were accused of any crime, but simply because they were Black and present when the lynch mob could not locate its preferred victim.

In the days following the lynching of William Anderson, the members of the mob that killed him claimed that they mistook him for Zema Anthony. Though the mob had no legal authority to kill Mr. Anthony, Mr. Anthony’s aunt, Mr. Anderson, or anyone else, the white men were not arrested or prosecuted and faced no consequences for the deaths of Mr. Anderson or Mr. Anthony’s aunt. 

Mr. Zema Anthony was reportedly shot and killed by police in Maryland that July.

At least 10 Black victims of racial terror lynching were killed in Baker County, Georgia, between 1877 and 1950. EJI has documented over 6,500 racial terror lynchings that occurred between 1865 and 1950. To learn more, read EJI’s reports, Lynching in America and Reconstruction in America

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