Jim Cross, wife, son, and daughter

About the Case

Date: March 3, 1900

County: Lowndes

Victim(s): Jim Cross, wife, son, and daughter

Case Status: attempted

Jim Cross, his wife, son, and daughter, were all lynched in their home on March 3rd, 1900.  A group of white men went to their home, called Jim Cross to his door, and shot him. The posse then entered the home and shot his wife, son, and daughter.  The newspaper articles for this case never mentioned why the family was lynched or who the assailants were. The Equal Justice Initiative, Lynching in Letohachee Memorial explained that Cross had condemned the violence of lynching after another Black man was killed by a mob.  The articles did mention this lynching, not the name of the victim, but the name of the white man he was accused of shooting, Sam Powell. Lowndes County, Alabama is listed as one of the top ten counties with lynching victims. The county had sixteen lynchings, but the city of Letohatchee contained seven of those lynchings. Black people were lynched for the smallest “insolence” against a white person, to enforce white supremacy. White mobs during the time were permitted to commit racial violence and receive no punishment for their actions. There is not much information on this case because many details of African American lives or lynching cases were not recorded or documented. 

There could be no genealogical records found on the Cross family. The names of Jim Cross’s wife, son, and daughter have still not been recovered. There is also no information indicating their age or any other information about the family. However, the newspaper articles stated the mob of white men went to the home of Jim Cross. Seemingly, Jim Cross and his family lived in their own home. The Alabama Black Belt was known for its cruelty towards Black people and the lack of effort in enforcing Constitutional laws, or basic human empathy. The white population controlled most of the information that circulated around the time. Therefore, they controlled how much information was known about lynchings in their cities or counties. The perpetrators of these crimes could have been anyone in the white population, so they covered it up and hid the information.  

The 1880’s held the most lynchings in America’s history, but just because the lynching rates lowered in later decades does not mean racial terror did as well. When the Democrats ended Reconstruction and began building their government on the back of white supremacy, most of the steps Black people took to move forward were reversed or taken away. Southern planters saw Black people as undeserving of civil and political rights, so they unleashed terror and violence to maintain their power. White men created Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws, segregation laws, voting laws, anything they could think of to keep the Black community from progressing. When none of that was working for white people, they turned to violence, but not just violence, extreme cruelty and torture.  In 1900, an entire family of four was murdered, in their home, just for speaking out against a lynching.  However, there was no lesson learned from this savage act because in 1918, a woman named Mary Turner, who was pregnant, was lynched after expressing she was upset her husband had just been lynched the day before. Almost two decades later, another entire family was lost to lynching. Neither of these victims’ families ever got justice for losing their lives. No matter how horrific these lynchings were, the media had a way to keep white people afraid of Black people, even if the real villain was white. The white newspapers had a specific way of depicting lynching to make the Black victims look evil and the white lynchers like heroes. The newspapers also depict the white victim as a good person, but there is no way to know how he treated his workers. If there was a little information about the lynching, newspapers would sensationalize it to instill fear in the white population. This case the newspapers stated, “It is reported that 1,000 are congregating and are threatening.” This type of information makes the white population fear black people, keeping white men in control. The fact is, Black people were not able to have guns at the time. There was no way for them to revolt or congregate against the power of white supremacy. Southerners were used to slave revolts during times of stress, and still had these fears instilled in them. The white population, that was not in power, believed these sensationalized information because their only source of information was the newspaper or city meetings.