John Hartfield: the tragic story that should be known

103 years ago today, a man named John Hartfield was brutally murdered in Mississippi, with the aid of local law enforcement.

His crime: having a white girlfriend while being black.

John Hartfield had moved away from his hometown of Ellisville, Mississippi in early 1919. He went to St. Louis to try to create a better life. However, he maintained his relationship with Ruth Meeks, who continued to live in Ellisville.

In early June, the relationship was found out by three white men. They said that Hartfield had raped Meeks. They also said she was only 18, even though she was in her mid 20’s.

Sheriff Alan Boutwell collected donations to be used to hire a posse, including bloodhounds, to hunt Hartfield.

He escaped them for two weeks, but was violently apprehended while trying to board a train to leave town.

His injuries were life threatening, but he was kept alive by a Doctor so he could be publicly murdered.

The sheriff released him to a mob of white men.

The local newspaper advertised that he would be publicly hung and burned he next afternoon.

Governor Theodore Bilbo refused to intervene.

His statement: “This is white man’s country, with a white man’s civilization. Any dream on the part of the negro to share political and social equality will be shattered.”

A crowd of 10,000 watched as John Hartfield was hanged. His body was then riddled with bullets by the mob.

When he was cut down, body parts were cut off of him and sold as souvenirs. What remained of him was then burned.

A picture was taken and sold as a post card.

Thank you for reading.

In order to get better, we sometimes have to take uncomfortable looks in the mirror. A true patriot understands the same is true for our country.

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