|The Bloody Red River Valley
|Downtown Hope, Arkansas in 1919. (LOC)
The Old South in the New South
Hope has always been an upstart town in southwestern Arkansas. A child of the Cairo and Fulton Railorad, Hope was founded around 1873
when the town-building arm of the company sold the first lots. Quickly, Hope became the largest city in Hempstead County. It was a
progressive place, too. In 1895, Henry Yeager founded the Shover Street School, a college founded for future African Americans teachers.
By 1938, voters designated Hope the new county seat, leaving old Washington behind in an embrace of the modern era.
However, even though Hope had no ties to the old planter families and didn't even exist before or during the Civil War, hundreds of whites
in the town proved themselves defenders of the Old South, which the completely unjustified lynching of Browning Tuggle in 1921 attested.
A history of violence
A native of Hope, Browning Tuggle had a wife, a daughter, and drove a jitney (an early kind of taxi) from the train depot to local places that
passengers requested. When an unnamed white woman accused a black man of assaulting her after she had previously talked to Tuggle
about hiring him, he was targeted as the perpetrator even though he did not fit the description. Police arrested him and allowed the mob to
take over. On March 15, Tuggle was hanged on a scaffold attached to the town's water tower, the highest spot in town. His body was then
riddled with bullets, and he remained on the water tower all day and night, pointed directly at the "black part of town."
A month later, the town of Rodessa, Louisiana - about 70 miles south of Hope - witnessed a lynching itself. Like Hope, Rodessa was a new
town. It was founded along the Kansas City Southern line as Frogtown. Then, after oil was discovered in the region, the town was renamed
for the daughter of a railroad official.
On April 15, 1921, Tony Williams was shot by a white vigilante posse after being accused of raping a white woman. There is not much
information about this murder except in the NAACP's annual list, which was entered into the Congressional Record in late 1921.
The area north Shreveport was never a kind place to African Americans, though this was home to a predominantly African American
populace. An incredible amount of violence happened against whole families in the region, and no white men were ever prosecuted for
their participation the violence. When a preacher who lived near Mira, was found hanged, a grand jury convened to condemn the act but
yet did not indict... although the names of the perpetrators were known.
A number of the lynchings in the area were related to labor unrests. Both black and white workers sought better wages and working
conditions in the sawmills, lumbermills, railorads, and coal mines. But the labor unions were dominated by white men who refused to let
black men join. So, when unions decided to strike, companies employed scab labor, who more often than not were black men. This led to
racial violence meted out not just by the rich and powerful, but also by the white working class against the black working class.
In January the very next year, the Dyer Anti-lynching act, championed for years by the NAACP, was passed by the U.S. House of
Representatives. Using figures compiled by the NAACP, supporters of the Bill listed 52 lynchings that occurred in 1921, and wrote that "In
the 30 years from 1889 to 1918, 3224 persons were lynched, of whom 2,522 were negroes, and of these 50 were women.... We must set our
faces against lawlessness within our own border. Whatever we may say about the cause for our entering this war, we know that one of the
principal reasons was the lawlessness of the German nation - what they have done in Belgium and northern France... For us to tolerate
lynching is to do the same thing that we are condemning in the Germans." The bill, however, failed to pass in the Senate when the
Southern Democrats blocked its progress with a filibuster.
An anti-lynching bill and resolution was finally passed by both the House and Senate in 2019 and 2020. Thankfully, it passed (nearly)