Lynching in Memphis: Part I

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By David Davis

The first paragraph of a story in the March 10, 1892, edition of the Memphis Appeal-Avalanche stated that not since the race riot of 1866 has the community been in such a fever of excitement as it was yesterday.

The story described the lynching of three black men: Tom Moss, the owner of People’s Grocery and two clerks, Calvin McDowell and Will Stewart. The store was located in a mixed-race neighborhood known as the Curve. A white grocer named William Barrett was apparently losing business to the nearby People’s Grocery. One narrative tells of rumors and trumped up charges sending a large group of armed white men into the store. Gunshots were traded and several white men were injured. An accounting of events by Damon Mitchell stated a racially charged mob grew out of a fight between a black and a white youth near People’s Grocery.

A story dated March 10, 1892, in the New York Times stated, “today showed a decided reaction from the excitement into which the city was thrown yesterday by the lynching of the three negro rioters Tom Moss, Will Stewart and Calvin McDowell …”

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