1890-1899 Albemarle

John Henry James in Albemarle

Victim ID: VA1898071101
Victim Name: John Henry James
Race: Black
Sex: Male
Age: Unknown
Job: Unknown
Method of Death: Hanged and riddled with bullets
Accusation: Criminal assault of an unmarried white woman
Date: 1898-07-11
City: Charlottesville
Mob Composition: Unknown

Summary: On July 12th, 1898, John Henry James, an African American man, was lynched near Charlottesville, in Albemarle County, for allegedly assaulting an unmarried white woman.

On July 11th, 1898, John Henry James was accused of criminally assaulting Miss Julia Hotopp outside of the gate of her home near Charlottesville, when she got off her horse to unlock the gate. He was charged for the assault and arrested. That night he was taken out of the jail and put on a train to be moved to a jail in Staunton for fear of a lynching mob. On the following morning, Smith was to stand trial in Charlottesville; according to the Alexandria Gazette, “The prisoner left Staunton at 10 o’clock in the morning in charge of Chief of Police Frank Parish and Lucien Watts, sheriff of the county. When the train was nearing Wood’s crossing, about four miles west of Charlottesville, the officers noticed a crowd at the station […]. As soon as the train slowed up a number of men, unmasked, boarded the platforms of the car, front and rear. All were armed with pistols and there seemed to be one hundred and fifty in the crowd.” The mob seized James and when they reached the platform a rope was thrown over James’s neck. James was then carried about 40 yards to a small locust tree; before being hung to the tree, the mob allowed James to pray for 20 minutes. He was then tied up on the tree and when his body was elevated over the crowd he was riddled with bullets. The Shenandoah Herald reported that 75 bullets perforated his body. According to the Richmond Planet, “The body of James was left hanging on the tree about two hours. Hundreds of people visited the scene this afternoon. Many of them gathered relics of the occasion, taking some portions of his clothing, etc.”

A grand jury met after James’ death and handed down a guilty verdict as if he were still living. The African American newspaper Richmond Planet condemned the lynching, claiming that “Lynchers should be fired upon, and abettors should he placed in the penitentiary. When the law-abiding citizens rally to defend the jails with the same spirit possessed by those who proceed to attack them, lynch-law will go.”

News Coverage: Alexandria Gazette; Staunton Spectator and Vindicator; Shenandoah Herald; Richmond Planet; The Times

Article Link (from Staunton Spectator and Vindicator published on 1898-07-14)
Article Link (from Richmond Planet published on 1898-07-16)
Article Link (from Richmond Planet published on 1898-07-16)
Article Link (from Alexandria Gazette published on 1898-07-13)
Article Link (from Shenandoah Herald published on 1898-07-15)
Article Link (from The Times published on 1898-07-13)
  • Gianluca
    July 11, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    The Washington Post has recently published an article about the lynching of John Henry James and the efforts to memorialize the location where the lynching occurred in Charlottesville. You can read the article here: https://tinyurl.com/yb447fnj

  • Gloria Beard
    June 24, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    This breaks my heart as I have read a lot of stories and watched documentaries about slavery and lynchings. I just can’t understand why people were so cold! They didn’t even respect the law or have a trail for John Henry James!

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