Joseph Rodgers

Background

On May 8, 1939, Joe Rodgers, a well-respected citizen and deacon of a Baptist church who “had a splendid record in every way,” was lynched in Canton following a dispute with the foreman of the sawmill where he was employed.  According to reports, his offense was that he refused to accept a weekly deduction of $5.50 from his wages to pay rent for a company-owned cabin.  Rogers did not live on the company property, and had no need for the cabin.

Rodgers was “captured, tied hand and feet, tortured with red hot irons and cut.”  Rodgers’ tortured body was thrown into the nearby Pearl River, where it was discovered by a local constable three days later.

Legal Status

On May 22, 1939, the NAACP received an anonymous letter describing a lynching in Canton, Mississippi. Godfrey L. Cabot, one of the Association’s Vice President’s became “so stirred by this cold blooded murder that he offered to make a contribution of one thousand dollars we could secure service of Ex-Governor Earl Brewer of Mississippi to prosecute the lynchers.

On June 2, 1939, the NAACP publicized the Rodgers lynching in a press release titled, “Hot Iron Torture Lynching in Mississippi Revealed by NAACP.”  The Association also commissioned its own investigation into the killing, and published the report of Howard Kester Lynching and Murder in Canton, Mississippi.