Using computational historical research methods, the Howard Center analyzed more than 40,000 scanned newspaper pages to identify and classify problematic historical coverage of racial terror lynchings by white-owned newspapers. All of the papers in the database, which we expect to continue updating, were still published in some form when they were added to the database.
Holiday premiered “Strange Fruit” in 1939, at the height of Jim Crow, the laws that enforced racial separation in America from 1877 to the mid-1960s.
The new database \includes historic examples from nearly 70 additional newspapers that featured racist and harmful coverage of the deaths of a lynching victim in their local coverage. All of the papers in the database are still published today in some form.
The racial terror in St. Charles occurred 15 years before the Red Summer of 1919, when racial violence took place in dozens of American cities, including near Elaine, Arkansas, just 30 miles from St. Charles in Phillips County. Aside from incomplete newspaper coverage at the time and a few articles in historical journals, the St. Charles Massacre of 1904 is little known in Arkansas.
Edward J. Clarke, a 1954 inductee into the Hall, was owner, publisher and editor of the Worcester Democrat, a weekly on Maryland’s largely rural Eastern Shore. In 1940, an unsigned, front-page commentary called for the lynchings of five Black suspects in the murder of a white farmer and the robbery and assault of his wife. Clarke, as editor and publisher, bore responsibility for publishing the piece.
Between 1865 and 1965, there were approximately 200 lynchings of Mexicans, Asians and Native Americans in the U.S., according to an analysis by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism of the Beck-Tolnay inventory of Southern Lynch Victims and the Seguin-Rigby National Data Set of Lynchings in the United States. Other researchers say this may represent a significant undercount of lynchings of Mexicans.
The AP, along with its member papers, reported in depth on extra-judicial killings by racist, white mobs throughout the late 1800s and 1900s.