Favorite

Remember the 1927 lynching in Little Rock 

It is natural to try to forget painful or embarrassing events — it's true for an individual and it's true for a community.

For several generations, most residents of Little Rock did not know the story of John Carter as it was kept under wraps by the white community. But many African-American residents knew. The story of the last known lynching in Little Rock was passed down through oral history, in the African-American community, communicated from parent to child as a warning of the worst traits of the intricate system of apartheid in which they were growing up in the state's capitol city.

John Carter was brutally lynched in the spring of 1927, in a period of intense racial tension in the city. This high tension had begun with the discovery of the body of a 12-year-old white girl in the belfry of the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Little Rock. The church janitor, who found the body, and his biracial nephew were arrested for the murder. To avoid mob justice, officials relocated the men to Texarkana until their trials could occur. A penal farm escapee named John Carter took their place in the rabid white community's bull's-eye after being accused of a sexual assault on two women in a rural area near where I-630 and I-430 now converge.

An armed group searched for Carter, found him, hung him from a telephone pole and shot him. Cars then dragged Carter's body through the streets of the city, finally stopping at 9th and Broadway — then the heart of the city's African-American business community. The horror continued as a crowd estimated at 5,000 whites converged on the area, setting Carter's now-mangled body afire and keeping the fire stoked with furniture from black businesses and churches in the neighborhood. Thus, the vigilante attack on one accused criminal became an attack on the entire African American community.

While absent from the official community history of Little Rock for most of the 20th century — despite its widespread coverage in national newspapers at the time — historians have begun to retell the story of Carter's murder in recent years. Those writers have not just recounted the events but recognized their importance in shaping African-American perceptions of what it meant to be a resident of a white-dominated S outhern city. In many ways, the tale of John Carter played the role that the killing of Emmett Till, the Chicago teen killed while visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1955 for "whistling" at a white woman, did elsewhere in the South. Members of the Little Rock Nine report the Carter lynching's centrality to the worries about their own safety in the midst of the 1957 Crisis.

While a small display on the event can be found inside the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center on that corner, it's time for Little Rock to remember what happened in 1927 with a public marker at 9th and Broadway. This visible marker should include a frank narrative recounting of the events surrounding Carter's death. A memorial in Duluth, Minn., serves as one example of a city that has created a tasteful public memorial to a lynching that was central to that city's racial history. The memorial in Little Rock should not be just about one murder, however. It should include an admission of the city's secular sin in creating a system where the killing of John Carter could occur and perpetuating a system after 1927 that would allow more generations of black residents to fear for their personal safety simply because of the color of their skin.

Building on last year's vote to rescind the city resolution praising Governor Faubus for trying to block the Little Rock Nine's entrance into Central High, the Little Rock City Board should work to create a representative task force to ascertain the manner in which the Carter incident could most appropriately be remembered with a physical marker.

Until then, as you sit in your car at the light on that corner or at one of the fast-food restaurant drive-thru windows that dot the area around it, think of the events of 85 years ago. More importantly, think of their long-term meaning for this community.

Favorite

Speaking of John Carter

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by Jay Barth

  • Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    No state political party in the modern era has had a more abrupt fall than Arkansas's Democrats
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Bill Clinton was right

    At the Arkansas Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraiser in July, Bill Clinton gave the worst speech I've ever heard him give.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Hillary in Arkansas

    She has made her time in Arkansas a major campaign theme, but the state's voters look to overwhelmingly reject her Nov. 8.
    • Nov 3, 2016
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Ban the box in Little Rock

    In the latest evidence of the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement in shaping the American policy agenda, this past week has become "ban the box" week.
    • Nov 4, 2015

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Latest in Jay Barth

  • Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    No state political party in the modern era has had a more abrupt fall than Arkansas's Democrats
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Bill Clinton was right

    At the Arkansas Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraiser in July, Bill Clinton gave the worst speech I've ever heard him give.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Arkansas 2016: the microclimate election

    In the lead-up to the past four Arkansas election cycles, the forecast has been a fairly simple one: strong winds blowing in the GOP direction.
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Stay the course

    I am frustrated and angry with those who claim the only chance of future success is for the Democratic Party, especially in the South and Midwest, to abandon speaking directly to women and people of color and the LGBT community and instead focus on the economy and other "more comfortable" topics in order to win back some of the center.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Reality TV prez

    • In fact, Runner, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.7 million and counting, just…

    • on December 9, 2016
  • Re: Stay the course

    • Thank you Autumn. I agree that we can not compromise an inch on the value…

    • on December 9, 2016
  • Re: Reality TV prez

    • Oh, calm down, Mr. L. and Mr. G. Stop having hissy fits. Instead of behaving…

    • on December 8, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation