Historic marker in South Memphis cemetery recognizes 1892 lynching

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A tragic lynching case that made the front page of the New York Times in 1892 was finally recognized with a historic marker in Memphis.

A crowd gathered Saturday at Zion Cemetery on South Parkway for an unveiling of a marker that memorializes Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell and William Henry Stewart, the three men killed in the People’s Grocery lynching.

The business partners had been arrested for defending their store when they were attacked by a white competitor. They were then dragged out of jail by vigilantes and shot to death in North Memphis.

Moss was one of the first black postal carriers in the city, while McDowell was a member of the Tennessee Rifles, a military group that served Memphis during the Yellow Fever epidemics.

Their deaths were chronicled by journalist Ida B. Wells, a childhood friend of Moss, in her 1892 pamphlet Southern Horrors: Lynch Law In All Its Phases. 

The marker was placed at the grave of Thomas Moss, but the resting places of the other two victims have not been found.

Speakers at Saturday’s event included WREG’s President and General Manager Ron Walter.


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