|Date(s):||July 2, 1896|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
Mob violence was prevalent in the Southern United States towards the turn of the twentieth Century. Noah B. Jones, who had been thought to be a victim of a mob attack in turn was identified as an actually lyncher, stifled by a defensive blow from a Mr. Maxwell. Jones and his party had come to Maxwell's house to terrorize him, and in turn was struck down by Maxwell with an ax in self defense. Maxwell recognized others in the gang as well, which would have led to their prosecution if it turns out that Maxwell testified against them. If that were the case, it would have leveled the chance that at least some of the lynchers would be brought to justice. To the public, the case most likely would have revealed participation from several men in the town.
At the heart of this story, the South's paradox between being part of the Union by abiding in governmental law and procedure and that of lynch law, which allowed individuals of the South to take the law into their own hands. After the Civil War and Reconstruction, many individuals in the South, in effort to reclaim pride and status, were hesitant to yield to the law, and as an informal code of behavior emerged, it required white men to respond to challenges to their honor by acting outside of the law. Lynching during the turn of the century could be seen as a legacy reminiscent of the years of slavery in which slave states offered Southern plantation owners the widest powers over their slaves in which punishment was at their own discretion. But as the North flourished through economic development, the growth of cities required a dependable exercise of state authority. This created tension within the South, where a majority of white individuals would rather resist legal institutions which might have challenged their discretion. In many cases southern mobs began pursuing their attacks in clothing which would protect their identities, however in this case governmental law overpowers.