The Lynching of Henry ‘Peg’ Gilbert

In a national history wrought with racial terrorism, is the truth enough to mend the wounds of a lynching?

On the evening of May 4, 1947, a calf wandered into a road in rural Troup County Georgia. The cow belonged to a white farmer named Olin Sands. A black man named Gus Davidson was driving along the same road and accidentally hit the calf. Davidson and Sands got into a fight over the dead cow. Sands attacked Davidson, who pulled a gun in self-defense and fatally shot the farmer.

In the following weeks, white mobs roamed the county, searching for Davidson. But he had already escaped. According to local myth, Davidson hid in a casket and was driven out of the state. With Davidson gone, the white community blamed someone else in his place. Henry Gilbert, a successful black farmer, was arrested on charges of ‘aiding and abetting a fugitive.’ Gilbert was lynched in jail.

For nearly 70 years, official police and FBI records maintained that Gilbert attacked a sheriff in jail and was killed in self-defense. However, researchers at Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice project disproved that and found overwhelming evidence that Gilbert was lynched.

The Lynching of Henry ‘Peg’ Gilbert is a short documentary which aims to correct the historical record.

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