Published in the Memphis Commercial Appeal on March 17, 2017 in Letters to the Editor
March 9, 2017 marks the 125th Anniversary of the People's Grocery Lynchings, also known as the Lynchings at the Curve. African Americans Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell and William Stewart were the owners of a successful general store in 1892 located at the corner of what today is Mississippi Blvd. at Walker Ave. called People's Grocery.
William Barret, white owner of a store across the street, was losing business to People's Grocery and conflicts ensued. He was deputized by a local judge and given permission by a judge to “restore order” by forming a group to march on the People’ Grocery. Appeals by African American patrons of the store for protection by law enforcement were ignored. Moss’ name was sensationalized in local papers, saying he was the leader of a “black conspiracy against whites.”
To save others and the neighborhood from destruction Moss, McDowell and Stewart turned themselves in and were put in jail. At2:30 a.m. masked men entered the jail, forcibly removed all three and took them to an area nearby, shot them and mutilated their bodies. The Memphis Appeal-Avalanche reported that “there was no hooping, no loud talking…everything was done decently and in order.”
These men and this story need to be remembered by white Memphians in a spirit of reverence and repentance. Their memory should be honored by all of us as respected, successful citizens.
Rev. Randall Mullins
for the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis