10 Lynching, Politics, and Religion: 1861–1892

Stanly Has a Lynching: The Murder of Alexander Whitley: A Family Legacy Entangled in a Web of Fiction & Folklore.




Lynching, Politics, and Religion: 1861–1892


   My analysis of the ballads and stories written about Alex Whitley, D. B. Tucker, and Judy Burris revealed the many false statements and stories circulated about my relatives and elucidates how these narratives were used and manipulated to create propaganda that supported lynching and other political and religious issues. Still, I wanted to know what had really happened in 1892. I had a feeling that there was more to this story.

   On September 15, 1861, as Southern politicians danced under the storm clouds of war in defiance of President Lincoln, Susannah Whitley, a single mother, gave birth to a son she named Alexander Whitley. Alex grew to adulthood in the post-Civil War era.

   When the battlefield killing ended, our country wavered on the brink of destruction, coping with a cost measured in combat fatalities of over and the collapse of the economy of the Southern states of the Confederacy. Bloodshed on the battlefields came to an end on the evening of April 9, 1865, when Lee surrendered at although combat continued in North Carolina with the sack of The ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865 abolished slavery and freed a population of three to four million black people from enslavement. Neither the South nor the North had a plan in place for bringing peace to the disorder.

   In July 1868, ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to all previously enslaved persons. Five years after the Civil War, in February 1870, ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment gave black men the right to vote. In response to the enfranchisement of black men, political campaigns unleashed secret armies, disguised as clubs or organizations, to terrorize this population and suppress their vote.

   In the presidential election year of 1892, Alex Whitley was 31 years old. The real story of his lynching is better found in the historical context of Arkansas and Stanly County in 1892. Only when I looked at what was happening in these communities at that time could I understand the problems these people faced and the decisions they made. That this lynching occurred just 27 years after the end of the Civil War is a significant factor in how and why Alex was lynched and came to be marked as a man of “dark and evil only man lynched in Stanly County.