On this dayNov 30, 1921

Local Sheriff in Texas Permits the Lynching of a 15-Year-Old Black Boy in Broad Daylight

On November 30, 1921, a mob of white men in Ballinger, Texas, seized Robert Murtore, a 15-year-old Black boy, from the custody of law enforcement and, in broad daylight, shot him to death. 

After a 9-year-old white girl alleged that she had been assaulted by an unknown Black boy, suspicion immediately fell on Robert, who worked in the same hotel as the white girl’s mother. He was arrested and held in the Ballinger jail, but word soon spread. On the morning of November 30, a white mob formed outside of the jail in an attempt to lynch Robert.  Local law enforcement removed Robert from his cell for transport away from Ballinger; it is unclear whether this was to facilitate or block the lynching. 

As the sheriff and Robert drove away from town, an armed mob of white men blocked the road and demanded that the sheriff turn Robert over to them. Though armed and charged with protecting Robert while he was in his custody, the sheriff willingly turned the Black teenager over to the mob without a fight.

During this era of racial terror lynchings, it was not uncommon for lynch mobs to seize their victims out of police hands. In some cases, police officials were even found to be complicit or active participants in lynchings. In this case, instead of pursuing the mob to try to stop the lynching or identify the mob members, the sheriff left the mob to its murderous task and rode back to the station at Ballinger to report Robert’s fate.

Unchallenged, the lawless mob seized Robert, drove him to a nearby grove, tied him to a post, and riddled his body with 50 bullets. A Texas newspaper described the mob as “orderly,” leaving “peacefully” after violently taking the young boy’s life. 

To learn more about the era of racial terror lynchings, in which thousands of Black people were hanged, shot, mutilated, and drowned, often as law enforcement looked on, read the Equal Justice Initiative’s report, Lynching in America.

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