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Joe Floyd was lynched outside the Pickens County Courthouse in Carrollton during the first week of September of 1893, but it is unknown what day. Along with two other black men, Seaborn Hayes and James Blige, Floyd was arrested on suspicion of killing a white streetcar motorman, Lucius Varnadoe, in Chatham County, Georgia.[1] The Grand Jury of Chatham County indicted all three in addition to two other black men who supposedly harbored them.[2]

Pickens County Courthouse, Carrollton, Alabama

Local law enforcement soon transported Floyd was transported to the Pickens County jail in Carrollton, Alabama.   The other indicted men did not join him.  It is unknown why this relocation took place and why it was only Jones who was moved.  The most likely explanation is that white citizens of Pickens County and its law enforcement officers and judges were increasingly known to be sympathetic to extra-legal forms of justice, especially the lynching of black men accused of capital crimes and violating norms of white supremacy. Shortly after Floyd was brought to Pickens County, a mob of masked men removed him by force, hanged him, and riddled his body with bullets.[3]

The history of Floyd and his alleged crime is frustratingly incomplete.  Census records and court records tell us little. Atlanta newspapers only minimally covered the story while copies of the local newspaper in Pickens County, The West Alabamian, no longer exist for the weeks of the lynching. While we feel confident asserting that Floyd was murdered, we cannot know the precise circumstances of his crime or death. His lynching became one of the several that scarred the county.  Its transient history reminds us that racism and white supremacy led to the killing of black men like Floyd but also limited what future generations could learn about his life and death.


[1] “To Investigate Hayes Case,” The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia), 13 August 1900.

[2] “Surprised the Gay Gamblers,” The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia), 14 August  1900.

[3] “Shot to Death in Jail,” The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.), 16 September 1893.