On August 4, 1908, William Miller of Brighton, Alabama, was hanged outside the Brighton jail. Records show that Mr. Miller was a coal miner and a member of the union, but reveal nothing else about his age or family.
In August 1908, unionized workers had gone on strike at mines near Brighton. On August 4, the house of strikebreaker Finley Fuller was dynamited. Whites framed Mr. Miller by falsely accusing him of bombing the house. After hearing the false accusation, authorities searched for Mr. Miller, using bloodhounds to catch him, and threw him into the Brighton jail. That same night, a mob from Brighton went to the jail, took Mr. Miller out of his cell, and murdered him by hanging him from a tree right next to the jail. The jailer denied any knowledge of the events. The next morning when authorities went to check on Mr. Miller, they found his body still hanging. The police did nothing to bring the mob to justice for this crime. As time went on in this community, bombings happened almost regularly.
Some newspapers used the lynching to endorse segregation. The Gadsden Daily Times wrote, “the danger of mixing white and negro labor, in more or out of them, is aptly demonstrated by the lynching of the negro miner at Brighton last night. It is not certain at all that the victim was guilty of the crime charged, but he was lynched as a kind of vigorous protest against the negroes taking any part in the strike troubles.”
Whites were opposed to and sickened by the thought of blacks getting equal or better pay and some would do anything to stop the unionizing and equal rights of African Americans. These acts of terror often went unreported.
Jefferson State Community College
“A Negro Miner Is Lynched By Brighton Mob,” The Gadsden Daily Times, August 5, 1908, page 1.
“Great Excitement Prevails in Striking District and Martial Law May Be Declared,” The Montgomery Advertiser, August 5, 1908, page 1.
“Untiled,” The Gadsden Daily Times, August 5, 1908, page 2.