Alleged offense: Attempted rape
Race: Black
Gender: Male
Age: 47
Legal intervention (in alleged offense): Yes
Legal intervention (following lynching): No
Mob size: 150
Mob members: “The People’s Committee”
Alleged victim: White girls
Household Status: Unrecorded
Occupation: Farmer

A mob lynched Ben Hart on May 8, 1887. Authorities arrested Hart of exposing himself to two teenagers. The mob organized slowly throughout a train route. On May 7, eight to ten men abducted a train conductor in Rocky Mount and forced him to conduct the train to Williamston. The mob grew with each stop. The train stopped a mile outside of Tarboro on May 8. From there, the mob abducted Hart from Williamston jail and hanged him. Hundreds came to see the hanging body.


Death certificate: None found
Census: 1860 Census

News coverage:

The Ben Hart Case

Judge Lynch

Under the Unwritten Law

Under the Unwritten Law


Town: Williamston, North Carolina
Latitude/Longitude: 35.899158, -77.598109

Additional Resources: The Map of Williamston Jail for Ben Hart

Researcher’s Note: Gathering of mob began in Tarboro (Edgecomb county), but lynching occurred in Williamston (Martin County); The well-planned lynching was almost universally praised in white-run newspapers, with a particularly emphatic editorial by Josephus Daniels of the Raleigh News & Observer widely reprinted.