Lynching of McCoy
To begin my narrative, it is important to understand what happened to McCoy and map out the events of his lynching. This section uses the methods proposed by Fuentes by asking questions with respect to different aspects of this case.
Joseph McCoy was the youngest in his family and lived in Alexandria throughout his life in a Black neighborhood called “The Bottoms” on South Alfred Street. His mother passed away shortly after his birth and so his grandmother, Cecilia McCoy took care of the children thereafter. Most of them worked at a young age by performing manual labor and being domestic servants. Joseph worked for the Lacy Family until he got reported by the father, on April 23, 1897, who accused him of abusing his children (About Joseph McCoy, n.d.).
McCoy was arrested without a warrant and confessed for the crime he committed. Around 12am on April 23rd, 1897, there was an attempt made to lynch McCoy however, the police succeeded in defeating this attempt. As a result, the lynchers broke into the police station, took McCoy out of his cell, and brought him to the corner of Cameron and Lee Street where he was lynched. At 1:15am, McCoy was hauled up onto a lamp post and shot with multiple bullets (Sun, 1897b). There were sounds from the military call, but the Light Infantry was too late and before they knew it, McCoy died. Governor O’Ferrall was responsible with the investigative proceedings, and he put the blame on Mayor Thompson for not responding to any of the subsequent attacks and intentions of the mob planning to lynch McCoy (Sun, 1897a). That day, there were no arrests and everyone’s identity was exposed due to the high degree of excitement by the crowd (Sun, 1897b).
The following day was the funeral of Joseph McCoy at the Demaine Funeral Home where Rev. William Gains passed his remarks to the situation. He stated that both the crime committed by McCoy and the vengeance displayed by the mob was inexcusable and uncalled for. He also warned the audience listening to not fall into the traps set by wicked men (Post, 1897). Reports stated that the Blacks planned to burn the Lacy Family house and Whites have been ready to protect Mr. Lacy on account of possible attack (Sun, 1897). Joseph McCoy’s cremated ashes were put in Penny Hill Cemetery. That Sunday was a bright and sunny day with a lot more people out on the streets than usual. Many of them were visiting the police station to observe the damage left by the mob and the lamp post where McCoy was lynched (Alexandria Gazette 26 April 1897 — Virginia Chronicle: Digital Newspaper Archive, n.d.).
One aspect that grew my curiosity was the fact that McCoy was arrested without a warrant which meant that his case didn’t go to trial. Moreover, in case the Light Infantry and military arrived in the scene sooner, would the scenario remain the same or could there have been a chance of McCoy being saved from the mob. These were two questions that formulated in my mind while thinking about this case and the theory drawn by Fuentes.
Here is a story map that summarizes and provides a spatial understanding of the major lynching events that I have previously mentioned.
About Joseph McCoy. (n.d.). City of Alexandria, VA. Retrieved May 6, 2023, from https://www.alexandriava.gov/cultural-history/about-joseph-mccoy
Alexandria Gazette 26 April 1897—Virginia Chronicle: Digital Newspaper Archive. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2023, from https://virginiachronicle.com/?a=d&d=AG18970426&e=-01-1897--04-1897--en-20-AG-1-byDA-txt-txIN-%22McCoy%22-------
ON A LAMP-POST: NEGRO LYNCHED IN ALEXANDRIA EARLY THIS MORNING. POLICE STATION ATTACKED PISTOLS WERE FIRED AND THE MOB WAS BEYOND RESTRAINT. THE CONFESSION OF THE CRIMINAL AS SOON AS THE ASSAULT OF THE NEGRO BECAME KNOWN THE ANGRY CITIZENS PLANNED HIS DEATH--THE FATHER OF THE GIRL, WITH DIFFICULTY, KEPT FROM KILLING HIS DAUGHTER'S ASSAILANT IN THE CELL--FOUR MEN ARRESTED FOR BEING A PARTY TO THE LYNCHING, BUT IMMEDIATELY RELEASED BY THE MAJOR--THE CORONER NOTIFIED, BUT NO INVESTIGATION OF THE AFFAIR HAS BEEN COMMENCED--THE ANCIENT TOWN GREATLY EXCITED OVER THE EVENT. THE NEGROE'S BRUTAL CRIME. THREATENED TO KILL THE CHILDREN. ANXIOUS TO LYNCH THE CRIMINAL. POLICE FIRE THEIR REVOLVERS. THE MOB IN THE CELL. CALL FOR THE INFANTRY. (1897, Apr 23). The Washington Post (1877-1922) http://mutex.gmu.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/on-lamp-post/docview/143862386/se-2
Post, S. to T. (1897, April 25). REMARKS AT M’COY’S FUNERAL.: Rev. Mr. Gains Deplored Both the Crime and the Deed of Vengeance. The Washington Post (1877-1922), 1.
Sun, S. D. to the B. (1897, April 24). THE LYNCHING OF McCOY: A Verdict that He Came to His Death at the Hands of Persons Unknown to the Jury. The Sun (1837-), 6.
Sun, S. D. to the B. (1897a, April 28). ALEXANDRIA HAPPENINGS: Investigating the Lynching of McCoy--Funeral of Mrs. Louisa Snowden. The Sun (1837-), 7.
Sun, S. D. to the B. (1897b, April 23). JOS. M’COY LYNCHED: He Was Strung Up to a Lamppost by an Angry Crowd in Alexandria, VA. A MILITARY CALL SOUNDED But It Was Too Late to Prevent the Work of Vengeance McCoy Had Confessed a Terrible Crime --Two Attempts Were Made to Take Him from His Cell and the Second One Was Successful--Police Fired Over the Heads of the Crowd. The Sun (1837-), 1.
By: Poojita Kondur