Pierce City: August 19th, 1901

"The United States of Lyncherdom"

In the summer of 1901, Mark Twain wrote an essay in reaction to an article about the Pierce City lynchings. A PDF of that essay is available here.

 Oh, Missouri!

  The tragedy occurred near Pierce City, down in the southwestern corner of the state. On a Sunday afternoon a young white woman who had started alone from church was found murdered. For there are churches there; in my time religion was more general, more pervasive, in the South than it was in the North, and more virile and earnest, too, I think; I have some reason to believe that this is still the case. The young woman was found murdered. Although it was a region of churches and schools the people rose, lynched three negroes--two of them very aged ones--burned out five negro households, and drove thirty negro families into the woods.

- Mark Twain, a Missouri native, in response to the Pierce City lynchings

Three men were lynched on August 19th, 1901 in Pierce City, Missouri, as Twain poignantly described in his post-homously published "The United States of Lyncherdom." The riot that culminated in those lynchings did more than drive thirty families into the woods: it effectively excised all African Americans from the town, a fact that is still evident in recent cenus records that show a 95 percent White population and a retrospectively haunting zero percent Black.