Memphis in Shelby County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
The Lynching of Ell Persons
Near this spot, on May 22, 1917, a mob tied Ell Persons to a log, doused him with gasoline, and burned him alive. Several thousand people watched in what newspapers described as a holiday atmosphere.
Authorities had arrested Persons, a local African American woodcutter, for the murder of Antoinette Rappel, a fifteen-year-old white girl riding her bicycle to school across this bridge. The local press reported that authorities had used physical and psychological force to obtain a confession from Persons. The press also reported that law enforcement disagreed about the identity of the culprit. The city police reportedly believed the true culprit was white, while the county sheriff directed the investigation toward African American woodcutters. Before Parsons could be tried, a mob took him from authorities. A local newspaper announced the time and place of the lynching. Some onlookers took pieces of the body for souvenirs.
Others dismembered what was left of Persons and drove to Beale Street where they threw his head and a foot at African American pedestrians.
No one was ever tried for either violent crime.
NAACP Field Secretary James Weldon Johnson came to Memphis to investigate the lynching of Ell Persons. He concluded that there was "no positive evidence" pointing
shine the light of truth upon them."
Erected 2017 by The Memphis Branch NAACP, The National Park Service, and The Lynching Sites Project of Memphis.
Location. 35° 9.781′ N, 89° 52.662′ W. Marker is in Memphis, Tennessee, in Shelby County. Marker is at the intersection of Summer Ave (U.S. 70) and Bartlett Road, on the left when traveling east on Summer Ave. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5484 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. 0.8 miles away); First Holiday Inn (approx. 1.4 miles away); Christian Brothers High School / Christian Brothers Band (approx. 2.4 miles away); Mullins United Methodist Church St. Agnes Academy (approx. 2.6 miles away); Bartlett Veterans Memorial (approx. 2.6 miles away); The Geographical Center of Shelby County (approx. 2.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Memphis.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker.
Also see . . .
1. Memphis Burning. The horrific lynching of Ell Persons was national news in 1917, then forgotten. Nearly 100 years later, his story is coming back to life. by MARTHA PARK (Submitted on July 22, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee.)
2. The Lynching Sites Project of Memphis. (Submitted on July 22, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee.)
Categories. • African Americans • Civil Rights •
Credits. This page was last revised on July 29, 2017. This page originally submitted on July 22, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 189 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on July 22, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. 4. submitted on July 23, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. 5. submitted on July 24, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. 6, 7. submitted on July 22, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.