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The Knoxville Riot

The Knoxville Riot

Chapter:
(p.21) Chapter II The Knoxville Riot
Source:
Anatomy of Four Race Riots
Author(s):
Lee E. WilliamsLee E. Williams
Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781604731903.003.0002

In late August 1919, a riot accompanied by looting and death erupted in Knoxville, Tennessee. The riot was the culmination of the tension that characterized the changed relations between blacks and whites in the years after World War I. It was triggered by a black male’s alleged forcible entry into a white woman’s house, robbery at gun point, murder, and an unsuccessful attempt to lynch him. The suspect was Maurice Mays, who was identified by the lone witness, Ora Smyth, as the one who shot and killed Mrs. Bertie Lindsey inside her bedroom on August 30, 1919. Because a reversible error was committed in the trial in the Criminal Court of Knox County, the case was remanded for a new trial. Mays was tried for the second time, but was again convicted, with the Tennessee Supreme Court upholding the conviction on another appeal. Mays was sentenced to death by electrocution, after which the city of Knoxville slowly returned to normal.

Keywords:   riot, Knoxville, Tennessee, blacks, whites, robbery, murder, Maurice Mays, Ora Smyth, Bertie Lindsey

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