‘Dangling Between Heaven & Earth’: Tuscaloosa’s Violent History

Source Type: Newspaper
Author: Ryan Phillips
Publisher: Ryan Phillips
Date of publication: 7/16/2021 0:00
Source URL: View Source

Cicero Cage (March 1919)

RALPH, AL — Perhaps the most peculiar lynching case in Tuscaloosa County history, questions still persist concerning the death of Cicero Cage — a young Black man who vanished after being accused of assaulting a white woman in western Tuscaloosa County.

In a story published in the Tuscaloosa News on March 16, 1919, the newspaper reported on anger festering in the Parks Mill neighborhood of the county, roughly three miles from Ralph. Cage was accused of jumping out and trying to attack a prominent white woman as she road her house down a secluded road.

While the woman insisted on her claims, she managed to escape unharmed. Despite this, the people of the neighborhood were reportedly “swearing vengeance” when news of the alleged assault spread.

Cage then disappeared, likely hiding out at first from the inevitable lynch mob that had become the all-too-common enforcers of Jim Crow Era policies.

Rumors then started to spread that, seeing the attention around his accusations die down, Cage returned to Tuscaloosa, only to be lynched. In numerous accounts, his father — Sam Cage — claimed that his son had been attacked and was “literally cut to pieces.”

While the father’s certainty in his son’s murder was made public, skepticism persisted as other rumors began to spread when the body of Cicero Cage was never recovered.

Many people in the Parks Mill neighborhood believed Cage’s death to be nothing more than a rumor started by his family so they could “spirit him away,” fearing the outrage from the public if the mobs were able to capture him alive.

More still, rumors abounded that Cage had been located and would be arrested and that reports of his lynching were false. The Tuscaloosa News also openly expressed fear for his lynching if he were to be captured.

Interestingly, the newspaper referred to conversations with a Parks Mill man who claimed Cage worked for him the previous Saturday in his garden, but hadn’t seen the young man since. This bucked the established narrative that Cage had been killed the previous Thursday. However, accounts of further skepticism were mentioned concerning any garden work that day due to unusually heavy rain.

Tuscaloosa County Sheriff P.B. Hughes said deputies were unsuccessful in tracking down leads in the case, ultimately considering Cage to be dead and unlikely to be found.

“It is pretty certain he has not been buried and it is supposed that after he was killed, his body was sunk in some deep hole in the creek, near where he attempted to pull the young lady from her horse when he attacked her,” the Tuscaloosa News reported.