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John West (Lynching of)

On July 28, 1922, a laborer named John West was shot to death near Guernsey (Hempstead County) after an argument at a work site over a shared drinking cup. The Arkansas Gazette gives the cause for the lynching as “impudence.”

According to the Gazette, on the morning of July 28, John West, an African American recently arrived from Kansas, was working on a paving gang in Hope (Hempstead County). He had an argument with the foreman on the job, Andrew Worthing, another Kansan, who was white. According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Bisbee (Arizona) Daily Review, the argument concerned West’s attempt to use the crew’s common drinking cup. When challenged by Worthing, West declared that “he was as good as any white man,” and hit Worthing with a sledgehammer, injuring him only slightly. Both were arrested, fined, and released.

After their release, West was advised to leave town. He boarded a train for Texarkana (Miller County) at 1:45 p.m. but was taken from the train near Guernsey, five miles from Hope, by a group of white men who had reached Guernsey ahead of the train. Witnesses reported hearing shots in the woods near the tracks and found West’s body riddled with bullets. He was supposedly clutching a .38 caliber revolver, which had been fired once. According to the Gazette, “While it is the general belief that the negro was lynched, officers who investigated say the black probably was shot after he a flourished a pistol and threatened the men who intended only to whip him.”

For additional information:
“Hempstead Mob Lynches Negro near Guernsey.” Arkansas Gazette, July 29, 1922, p. 1.

“Quarrel over Black’s Right to Cup Ends in Lynching.” Memphis Commercial Appeal, July 29, 1922; online at http://www.gateschili.org/webpages/cwhite/resources.cfm?subpage=13345 (accessed March 27, 2015).

“Quarrel Results in Lynching of Negro.” Bisbee (Arizona) Daily Review, July 30, 1922, p. 7.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Clinton, South Carolina

Last Updated 4/23/2015

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