Prior to 1921, Sarasota was a part of Manatee County. During that time, The Equal Justice Initiative has documented six victims of lynchings in this area:

  • Henry Thomas — March 8, 1903
  • Sam Ellis — March 7, 1910
  • Wade Ellis — March 7, 1910
  • Ruddy — March 8, 1910
  • William English — July 1, 1912
  • James Franklin — April 4, 1934*

*after Sarasota separated from Manatee County.

In addition, our head of research, Mrs. Hope Black, has found one more victim: Lewis Jackson, listed in the NAACP book, Thirty Years of Lynching.

We know there are more victims of lynching in the Sarasota Manatee area, but do not have enough documentation to testify to those names and occurrences.

Through the Community Remembrance Project, we seek to honor the victims of racial violence both past and present, promote further education on black history, and take one small step towards paying the reparations owed. These are their stories.

Between the end of the Civil War and the end of World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States in violent and public acts of torture that traumatized Black communities locally and throughout the country. These racial terror lynchings, largely tolerated by state and federal officials, peaked between 1880 and 1940 and represented some of the most brutal violence in American history. This era of racial terrorism profoundly impacted race relations in the United States and shaped the geographic, social, and economic conditions of African Americans in ways that are still evident today.

The Studies

In February 2015, the Equal Justice Initiative issued a new report on Lynching in America documenting over 4,000 lynchings that took place in the 12 states that had the highest rates of lynching in America. With the release of the third edition of EJI's report, 300 additional racial terror lynchings have been documented that took place in the remaining states during this era. For the first time, EJI researchers characterized and catalogued lynchings and studied the locations of lynching so community members could discover their local history. Most recently, EJI released its newest report on Reconstruction in America, documenting nearly 2,000 more confirmed racial terror lynchings of Black people by white mobs in America than previously detailed. The report examines the 12 years following the Civil War when lawlessness and violence perpetrated by white leaders created an American future of racial hierarchy, white supremacy, and Jim Crow laws—an era from which our nation has yet to recover.

Parrish, Manatee County, Florida, March 8, 1903

On March 6, 1903, a white girl was sent by her parents in Parrish, Florida to run an errand at a nearby farm. The girl returned home and claimed that during the trip a Black man attempted to embrace and then kiss her: the man then allegedly followed her home and threatened the girl and mother with a gun.

As these allegations spread, a mob formed and focused their suspicion on Henry Thomas, a black man. Reports do not indicate why Mr. Thomas was targeted, but the mob declared their intent to lynch Mr. Thomas before the legal system could or would act. They roamed Manatee County for two days.

On March 8, Henry Thomas was captured near Hickman’s sawmill by a white man who claimed he planned to turn Mr. Thomas over to law enforcement. The mob found Mr. Thomas and abducted him for lynching. Although the mob coerced Mr. Thomas to “tremblingly admit” that he had hugged and kissed the girl, Mr. Thomas denied the allegation of rape and maintained his innocence.

The mob took Mr. Thomas to the garden where the alleged assault occurred and proceeded to lynch him. There is no evidence that anyone involved in the lynching of Mr. Thomas was ever held accountable.

The mob took Mr. Thomas to the garden where the alleged assault occurred and proceeded to lynch him. There is no evidence that anyone involved in the lynching of Mr. Thomas was ever held accountable.

Days later, on March 11, The Tampa Tribune reported that the sheriff had received photographs of Mr. Thomas’s murder. Despite photographic evidence and many eyewitnesses, local law enforcement and prosecutors granted impunity to the members of the mob.

  1. The Tampa Tribune, (Tampa, Florida), March 8, 1903.
  2. The Atlanta Constitution, (Atlanta, Georgia), March 9, 1903.
  3. Jackson Daily News, (Jackson, Mississippi), March 9, 1903.
  4. The Tampa Tribune, (Tampa, Florida), March 10, 1903.
  5. The Los Angeles Times, (Los Angeles, California), March 10, 1903.
  6. Detroit Free Press, (Detroit, Michigan), March 10, 1903. The Tampa Tribune, (Tampa, Florida), March 11, 1903.
  7. Equal Justice Initiative. Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror (3d Ed., 2017).
  8. Feimster, Crystal N. Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2009).

Palmetto, Manatee County, Florida, March 6-7, 1910

In March 1910, a mob of white men led by law enforcement lynched three Black men over the course of two days in Manatee County, Florida.

On March 6, 1910, a Black man named Mr. Ruddy was lynched following racial violence sparked by a conflict over wages between Mr. Ruddy, who was a contract employee, and his white employer, who was a head contractor in Tampa.

This dispute between Mr. Ruddy and his boss escalated into a shootout that ended with Ruddy’s boss being fatally wounded, after which a deputy sheriff led the mob — with no legal authority — to find Mr. Ruddy.

After his murder, Mr. Ruddy’s body was found abandoned near a swamp at his home; no one was held accountable for killing him. Contemporary newspapers reported only his last name.

A white man later reported to the sheriff that during the search, likely on Sunday, he killed Mr. Ruddy. Mr. Ruddy had run for cover in palmetto trees near his home before deciding to act in self defense. When he did so, the man reportedly shot Mr. Ruddy multiple times and left his body abandoned in a swamp near his home, which was later found by the mob.

Also on Sunday, March 6, 1910, the deputy and mob hunting Mr. Ruddy arrived at the home of Sam and Wade Ellis. The Ellis brothers had no involvement in the death of Mr. Ruddy’s boss, but were soon accused of interfering with the capture of Mr. Ruddy because the bloodhounds went to their home during the search.

After an exchange of gunfire between the brothers and the mob, the deputy sheriff had been killed. The mob left to seek back-up and from there, the racial conflict continued to escalate as white mobs led by other deputy sheriffs terrorized the Black community for the next 24 hours.

On the morning of Monday, March 7, two deputies were standing watch on a bridge when they saw Sam and Wade Ellis approaching them. According to the deputies, when they ordered the men to stop, the brothers kept walking and the deputies began shooting at them.

When the encounter ended, Sam Ellis had been wounded by a shot to the head, Wade Ellis had fled into the swamp for safety, and one of the deputies was injured. The other deputy seized the injured Sam Ellis and tied him to a tree before taking the injured deputy to get medical treatment.

Shortly after the deputies abandoned Sam Ellis, an armed white mob arrived and shot him to death. The mob of several hundred then continued in search of Wade Ellis. When the mob found Wade Ellis asleep in the swamp near the Manatee River around dusk, they shot him to death and left his body on the riverbank. No one was charged with their deaths.

  1. The Greenville News, (Greenville, South Carolina), March 8, 1910.
  2. The Pittsburgh Press, (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), March 8, 1910.
  3. The Vicksburg Herald, (Vicksburg, Mississippi), March 8, 1910.
  4. The Washington Post, (Washington, District of Columbia), March 8, 1910. The Weekly Tribune, (Tampa, Florida), March 10, 1910.
  5. Equal Justice Initiative, Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror (3d Ed., 2017).
  6. Equal Justice Initiative, Slavery in America: The Montgomery Slave Trade (2018).
  7. In Remembrance: Lynching in America The Soil Collection Project Equal Justice Initiative.

Bradenton, Manatee County, Florida, July 2, 1912

According to a 1910 Census of Manatee County, Florida, a 20-year-old Black man named Willie English was living in Manatee Town working as a teamster and living in the home of his step-father Henry Oliver, and mother Mollie Oliver. On July 2, 1912, a mob abducted him from the Manatee County Jail in Bradenton, Florida and lynched him.

A white woman had complained that Mr. English had spoken to her in a way she found insulting. Though press accounts provided no further information about the reported conversation between Mr. English and the woman, law enforcement arrested Mr. English, and he was placed in the Manatee County Jail.

The Tampa Tribune reported that, after Mr. English was placed in jail, plans were being made “to have English tried at an early date.” However, four days later and before a trial could happen, a mob of at least 40 white men from “the various river towns” came and surrounded the county jail close to midnight on July 1 intent on lynching Mr. English.

When the jailer on duty realized the mob was besieging the jail, he resisted, firing upon the mob and demanding they desist. Nevertheless, in a brazen display of disregard for the constitutional rights of Mr. English, the mob opened fire on the jail, broke through the door, confiscated the keys from the jailer, and kidnapped Mr. English.

The mob took Mr. English from the jail and headed towards the outskirts of town. Along the way, “a halt was made and residents of the section heard several shots fired.” Willie English was shot to death before being hung from a tree. A coroner’s jury was held later that afternoon and returned a verdict that Willie English “came to his death at the hands of unknown men.”

Rather than condemn the mob’s lawlessness, The Tampa Tribune printed an article the day after Mr. English was lynched stating that the mob killed him “as a warning to others”. In the end, no one was held accountable for the lynching of Willie English.

  1. The Tampa Tribune, (Tampa, Florida), July 3, 1912, page 1.
  2. The Tampa Times, (Tampa, Florida), July 3, 1912, page 1.
  3. The Times-Democrat, (New Orleans, Louisiana), July 3, 1912, page 15.
  4. The Philadelphia Inquirer, (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), July 3, 1912, page 2. The Charlotte News, (Charlotte, North Carolina), July 3, 1912, page 7. Asheville Gazette-News, (Asheville, North Carolina), July 2, 1912, page 1. The New York Age, (New York, New York), July 11, 1912, page 4.
  5. The Gadsden Daily Times-News, (Gadsden, Alabama), July 2, 1912, page 1.
  6. "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 15 April 2021), Willie English in household of Henry Oliver, Manatee, Manatee, Florida, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 93, sheet 9B, family 214, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 164; FHL microfilm 1,374,177.
  7. Equal Justice Initiative, Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror (3d Ed., 2017).

Bradenton, Manatee County, Florida, April 4, 1934

James Franklin was a middle-aged Black man who worked as a yardman in the city of Bradenton. Little is known about Mr. Franklin’s life in Bradenton, and it is unknown whether he had a family in the area. On March 31, Mr. Franklin was working next door to a citrus farm when he witnessed a young white girl fall to the ground from a mulberry tree. Mr. Franklin attempted to help the young girl, and shortly after the girl told her father that Mr. Franklin assaulted her.

Police officers searched the city for several days before locating and arresting Mr. Franklin while he was working a yard job on the night of April 3rd. Mr. Franklin maintained his innocence and denied the claims of assault.

On the morning of April 4, 1934, the chief of police and his deputy escorted James Franklin to a physician for a mental and physical wellness exam. As they were departing the physician's office to return to the jail, the father of the white girl, Joe Kopman, approached them from behind. Allegedly unnoticed by the two officers, Kopman fired two gunshots into the back of Mr. Franklin’s head at point blank range.

Kopman then surrendered his gun and admitted guilt by saying, “you won’t have to do anything to him now.” The officers immediately arrested him and brought him to the county jail, leaving Mr. Franklin on the sidewalk as a crowd began to gather. James Franklin died one hour later at the county hospital.

A coroner’s jury was impaneled by the county judge later in the afternoon of April 4 to investigate Mr. Franklin’s lynching. The jury of six people briefly viewed Mr. Franklin’s body and were presented with the evidence that Kopman had approached Mr. Franklin from behind and fired two shots into his body.

The coroner’s jury ruled the same day that the cause of death was “justifiable homicide” and called for the immediate release of Kopman. No one was ever held accountable for the lynching of James Franklin.

  1. The Bradenton Herald, (Bradenton, Florida), April 4, 1934.
  2. The Philadelphia Enquirer, (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), April 5, 1934. The Town Talk, (Alexandria, Louisiana), April 4, 1934.
  3. News-Press, (Fort Myers, Florida), April 5, 1934.
  4. Oakland Tribune, (Oakland, California), April 4, 1934.
  5. Equal Justice Initiative, Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror (3d Ed., 2017).
  6. In Remembrance: Lynching in America The Soil Collection Project Equal Justice Initiative.

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