James Weldon Johnson named the summer of 1919 the "Red Summer" for the rash of deadly riots which erupted in more than twenty-five American cities between April and October of that year. Racial tensions were at an extreme in Omaha that summer; the influx of African Americans from the South and a perceived epidemic of crime created an atmosphere of mistrust and fear that led to the lynching of William Brown.

Brown had been accused of molesting a white girl. When police arrested him on September 28, a mob quickly formed which ignored orders from authorities that they disperse. When Mayor Edward P. Smith appeared to plead for calm, he was kidnapped by the mob, hung to a trolley pole, and nearly killed before police were able to cut him down.

The rampaging mob set the courthouse prison on fire and seized Brown. He was hung from a lamppost, mutilated, and his body riddled with bullets, then burned. Four other people were killed and fifty wounded before troops were able to restore order.

This photograph was acquired from a Lincoln, Nebraska, man whose grandfather purchased it for two dollars as a souvenir while visiting Omaha in 1919.

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