Luther Holbert born in 1852, was an African American man who was tortured and lynched alongside his wife by a mob in Doddsville, Mississippi on Sunday, February 7, 1904, after being accused of a double murder.
Born into slavery in Mississippi in 1852, Luther Holbert gained freedom following the conclusion of the American Civil War in 1865. In 1884, he married Annie, with whom he had four children. Additionally, Holbert fathered a child with a mistress.
The events leading to Holbert’s lynching unfolded against a backdrop of racial tension and economic exploitation. On February 3, 1904, a confrontation erupted between Holbert and James Eastland, a white landowner, resulting in the deaths of three men, including Eastland and two African Americans. Accounts of the incident varied, with allegations of Holbert defending himself against Eastland’s aggression and others suggesting economic motives behind the clash, as Holbert allegedly encouraged other indebted Black workers to flee the slavery-like conditions of bonded labor.
After the altercation, Eastland’s relatives offered a $1,200 reward (equivalent to about $41,000 in 2024) for Holbert’s capture. This ignited a frenzied manhunt fueled by racial animosity, a thirst for vengeance, and the promise of a substantial reward. The mob embarked on a relentless pursuit of Holbert and his wife, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake. Six other African Americans fell victim to the indiscriminate violence unleashed in the search for Holbert.
The manhunt ended on February 7, 1904, when Holbert and his wife were captured by a bloodthirsty mob while sleeping in a wooded area near Shepardstown, Mississippi. What followed was a horrific display of barbarism and cruelty, witnessed by over a thousand people. The lynching, planned for a Sunday afternoon to attract a large crowd of people, unfolded amidst a chilling atmosphere of celebration, with attendees engaging in gruesome festivities.
According to an eyewitness account published in the Vicksburg, Mississippi, Evening Post, Mr. Holbert and his wife were tied to trees while their funeral pyres were prepared. They were then forced to hold out their hands and watch as their fingers were chopped off, one at a time, and distributed as “souvenirs.” Next, the same was done to their ears. Mr. Holbert was then beaten so badly that his skull was fractured and one of his eyes hung by a shred from the socket. The lynch mob next used a large corkscrew to bore into the arms, legs, and bodies of the two victims, and pulled out the spirals tearing out big pieces of raw quivering flesh every time.
The victims, reportedly, did not cry out as they underwent torture. Subsequently, they were thrown onto the fire, where they were left to burn to death. They burned the woman first in sight of Holbert, followed by his own burning.
The event was described as a festive atmosphere, in which the audience of 600 spectators enjoyed deviled eggs, lemonade, and whiskey.
After the lynching, the brother of the slain, C. C. Eastland, faced charges for the murder of Holbert and his wife. However, during the court hearing, Eastland’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charges, which the judge granted, leading to Eastland’s release.
Despite efforts to hold accountable those responsible for the heinous crime, no one was ever prosecuted for the murders of Holbert, his wife, or the six other African Americans who lost their lives during the manhunt.