LYNCHING can be defined as informal, violent mob justice with the intent to publicly execute someone for a supposed crime, real or imagined. This was a common practice during the so-called “nadir of racial relations,” most often committed by White Americans against AFRICAN AMERICANS as a means of social and political suppression (of Black Americans), and bonding (for White Americans). Though typically associated with the South, Lynching was not unheard of in the North: there were at least 28 attempted in Ohio, at least 11 of which were successful.
The lynching of John Jordan (? - 27 June 1911) was the only one known to have targeted a Black man in Cleveland. Jordan and two friends were eating cherries from the cherry orchard of John Decker, somewhere near WEST BOULEVARD and Clinton Road. The Deckers told them to leave, but later claimed that Jordan made threats as he did so; Decker and his hired hand, Arthur Beamish, then chased Jordan into the city. The chase apparently attracted some 200 pursuers, who eventually cornered Jordan: a brief exchange of fire saw Jordan wounded before his revolver jammed, and he was brought down in a fistfight. The mob was stopped by police before they could hang him, as was planned, but Jordan succumbed to his wounds in a hospital.
Stolen cherries may seem a rather trivial matter to escalate to mob violence, but the reality is that lynchings are seldom over isolate things. Rather, they are manifestations of broader social tensions and conflicts, brought to violent crescendos of extra-judicial killing. The events of June 27 show how, even among ‘progressive’ cities with positive reputations, like Cleveland during the early 20th century, minority experiences were subject to and shaped by the omnipresence of racial conflict.