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Robert Hicks (Lynching of)

In late November 1921, a young African-American man named Robert Hicks was lynched near Lake Village (Chicot County) for writing a letter to an eighteen-year-old white woman. While the identity of the woman remains a mystery, Hicks was probably the same Robert Hicks who was living with his mother, Minnie, in the household of his stepfather, Henry Singleton, in South Charlton Township of Chicot County in 1910. At that time, he was eight years old. In 1920, at eighteen, he was still in South Charlton Township working on a cotton farm owned by his uncle, Jessie E. Cooper. While newspaper reports put his age at twenty-three or twenty-five, the census information shows that he was only nineteen at the time of the lynching. While some reports indicate that the lynching occurred on November 25, a report published in the Arkansas Gazette on November 26 indicates that it was the previous Wednesday afternoon, which would have been November 23.

According to the Arkansas Gazette, Hicks had lived at Lake Village for several years and was “well known.” He had allegedly written and signed his name to an insulting letter to a Lake Village girl. When he failed to receive a reply, he went to her home to ask her if she had received the letter. According to the New York Tribune, thirty local men were in hiding near the porch; they captured Hicks and riddled him with bullets. His body was found the next morning, and authorities were notified. When asked for comment by the Gazette, Chicot County sheriff Calmes Merritt claimed to know nothing about the incident because he had just returned from a hunting trip; the county judge said he had only heard rumors of the crime, because he, too, had been away hunting. The county coroner held an inquest, and the verdict was that “Hicks came to his death at the hands of persons unknown to the jury.” According to the Gazette, this was the first lynching to occur in Chicot County in many years. Indeed, the most recent known lynching before 1921 had been the lynching of Henry Johnson in 1903.

For additional information:
“Lynched for Writing Note.” Cleveland Gazette (Ohio), December 3, 1921, p. 1.

“Negro Is Lynched in Chicot County. News of Affair, Which Occurred Wednesday, Had Been Suppressed.” Arkansas Gazette, November 26, 1921, p. 1.

“Note Written to White Girl Costs Young Negro His Life.” New York Tribune, November 26, 1921, p. 6.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina

Last Updated 12/31/2018

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