On this dayMar 10, 1865

Confederate Soldiers Hang Black Woman in Darlington, South Carolina

Harper's Weekly

On March 10, 1865, Confederate soldiers hanged Amy Spain, a young Black woman, from a sycamore tree on the courthouse lawn in Darlington, South Carolina. Accused of “treason and conduct unbecoming a slave,” Amy was sentenced to death by a military tribunal and killed just weeks before the end of the Civil War.

When Union soldiers arrived in Darlington in early 1865, many enslaved people in the area believed it marked the end of bondage. A large number of Darlington’s white residents had deserted the area as Union forces approached, and the soldiers allowed the Black men and women to take whatever belongings had been left behind. Amy, who had been enslaved by Major Albertus C. Spain, reportedly took “linens, sheets, pillow cases, flour, sugar, lard, and some furniture” from the Spain home, where she had been enslaved and worked without pay for years.

When the Union soldiers left Darlington, Confederate troops returned and white residents who had remained in town during the occupation reported that Amy had been a “ringleader” of the “looting.” They also accused her of leading the Union forces to hidden valuables. Soon after, Amy was tried, sentenced to death, and hanged. According to newspaper reports, her punishment “was acquiesced in and witnessed by most of the citizens of the town.”

On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union, preparing for the end of the Civil War. By the end of the year, ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, except as punishment for crime—but no one was ever held accountable for the hanging of Amy Spain.

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