John Thomas, April 25, 1909, Bessemer, Outskirts of Town

In the early 1900s, brutal killings of African Americans were nothing less than normal. In fact, the murders were very much expected in places like Alabama. Murders of black people were so normal that they were left unsolved. 

On April 25, 1909, John Thomas was 25 years old and lived in Jefferson County. Andy Roy arrested him for the alleged attack of a white woman, Mrs. Patterson. At night, Roy was supposed to walk Mr. Thomas from the jail in Birmingham to the one in Bessemer. The city would have known such transportation of a black man could be open to the threat of a lynching. Even so, they  had only Roy accompany him. 

During the transport, a group of white men easily took Mr. Thomas from Mr. Roy’s custody. His bullet-ridden body was found the next day in the woods. A white cloth mask was found near his body as well. 

Mr. Thomas was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery. No other information about his life could be found. 

Ashley Pates 

University of Alabama at Birmingham 


Selected Sources 

“Alabama Deaths and Burials, 1881–1952.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records. 

“Lynch Negro for Brutal Assault,” The Birmingham News, April 26, 1909, page 1. 

“The Happenings of the Week,” Goodwater Enterprise, April 30, 1909, page 1