Memphis in Shelby County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
The Lynching of Ell Persons
Near this spot on May 22, 1917, a lynching party chained Ell Persons to a log, doused him in gasoline, and burned him alive. An estimated 5,000 spectators witnessed his death or viewed his remains soon afterward. Persons, a black woodcutter who lived nearby, was facing charges of raping and decapitating Antoinette Rappel, 15, a white school girl last seen on her bicycle crossing the Wolf River over the Macon Road bridge. In building a case against Persons, authorities relied primarily on a coerced confession made "after a long siege of beating" and "third degree tactics" from law officers, as the Memphis press reported. Once authorities charged Persons with the slaying, they sent him to Nashville for safekeeping.
Meanwhile, groups of white men referred to as "the avengers" monitored all rail lines into Memphis as Person's trial date approached. On May 21, 1917, one of these groups overpowered two Shelby County deputies, seized Persons, and removed him from a rail passenger car outside Potts Camp, Mississippi. News reports in Memphis the next morning stated the time and place where Persons would be lynched. A carnival atmosphere prevailed here as automobiles jammed Macon Road and vendors sold drinks and snacks. After the lynching, onlookers dismembered Person's charred body.
Erected 2017 by Facing History and Ourselves and Students Uniting Memphis of Overton High School and the Shelby County Historical Commission.
Location. 35° 9.616′ N, 89° 52.852′ W. Marker is in Memphis, Tennessee, in Shelby County. Marker is on Summer Avenue (U.S. 79) ¼ mile west of Shelby Oaks, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5404 Summer Ave, Memphis TN 38134, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A different marker also named The Lynching of Ell Persons (approx. ¼ mile away); Nashoba (approx. 1.1 miles away); First Holiday Inn (approx. 1.2 miles away); Christian Brothers High School / Christian Brothers Band (approx. 2.3 miles away); Mullins United Methodist Church (approx. 2.3 miles away); St. Agnes Academy (approx. 2.3 miles away); St. Mary's Episcopal School (approx. 2.6 miles away); Bartlett Veterans Memorial (approx. 2.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Memphis.
Also see . . .
1. Ell Persons lynching remembered 100 years later (Submitted on May 23, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee.)
2. Mob Searches For Negro: Ell Persons. Headline in the Memphis Commercial Appeal May 7, 1917 (Submitted on May 23, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee.)
3. Negro Murderer of Little Schoolgirl Also Officers Who Worked on Case. Memphis News Scimitar May 8, 1917 (Submitted on May 23, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee.)
4. Seeking Repentance for a 100 Year Old Lynching. (Submitted on May 23, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee.)
Categories. • African Americans • Civil Rights •
Credits. This page was last revised on May 24, 2017. This page originally submitted on May 23, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 313 times since then and 160 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on May 23, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.