Locating Lynching

Revealing lynchings in North Carolina


Inspired by the Equal Justice Initiative’s recent report on lynchings in the American South, this project seeks to locate and document lynchings in North Carolina using DH Press.

Begun in February of 2015 and powered by students in the First Year Seminar Introduction to Digital Humanities (AMST 89), Locating Lynching aims to

  • pinpoint, using latitude-longitude pairs, the locations of lynchings in North Carolina.
  • provide access to relevant manuscript material, particularly digital newspaper articles.
  • offer users both broad and specific information about lynching in North Carolina for research, teaching, and other uses.
  • contribute to an important conversation about race, violence, and power in the United States.

White North Carolinians did not make their state a leader in lynchings, much to the relief of the state’s governors. But North Carolinians still lynched more than one hundred people between the late 1880s and 1960.

This project seeks to address the irony that despite the fact that members of lynch mobs documented their activities deliberately and prolifically, the physical spaces by and large remain unmarked. This project will visualize lynchings in new ways, to the extent possible privileging images of modern sites of historic lynchings over the mob-produced images of damaged black bodies that were intended to terrorize the wider black community.

Current and future iterations of the project will seek to integrate lynching and death penalty data (it is intriguing that Orange and Durham Counties had no reported lynchings, according to the EJI report, but among those counties with the most legal executions in the early 20th Century); address press coverage; and include attempted lynchings, not just those that resulted in a death.


This project was conceived and executed during and after Carolina’s First Year Seminar AMST 89, Introduction to Digital Humanities. It was  originated by Seth Kotch and developed by Seth Kotch and Elijah Gaddis. Elijah Gaddis formatted the data, configured DH Press, and contributed substantial, ongoing, and exceptional intellectual and technical work. Student historians were Jennifer Davidowitz, Sarah Dwyer, Dallas Ellis, Jared Feeny, Ava Gruchacz, Robert Haisfield, Jennifer Hausler, Harry Heyworth, Kara Kochek, Daniel Lee, Landon Mays, George Pancio, Ellis Pearson, Sara Pyo, Austin Seamster, Holden Shearin, Courtland Stout, Nik Stylianou, Zachary Sukkasem, Alondra Vargas, Patrick Vickers, and Lauren Wagaman.


  1. This is very interesting and horrifying. Perhaps companion maps of police shootings and judicial executions will follow. Come on, geographers and sociologists.

    Keep up the great and useful work.

  2. There is a lynching in the 1930’s, I think, that is referenced in the book, Zeb’s Black Baby, about the history of Vance County, NC that is not on this map.

  3. As an unofficial town historian for Dobson, the Surry County seat, I keep reference information about the Tom Allison lynching. I would be happy to donate scans of local press coverage of the lynching. It appears that almost everyone involved in the lynching was white – except the major witnesses, who were black. Allison was taken out of the Surry County jail and hauled through the town’s African American section to what became known at the “Allison Tree.”

    • Is that store called the “Allison Tree” because of that event?
      I’ve read two different newspaper articles about that lynching, but unfortunately they are very short and not much detail is found about it at all. I’m curious to know more about the history around these places.

  4. Here is a blog post I did on Henry Swaim, who was lynched in Forsyth County in 1884…the only known lynching in county history…


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