The Atlanta Ripper

This is not a new story that local news has sandwiched between heartwarming tales of puppies and pie-making. It is, however, a sorely neglected tale.

I suppose there isn’t that much mystery as to why few of us who read about true crime and historic murder sprees have never heard of Atlanta’s own Ripper: it happened in the early part of the 20th century here in the ATL, when this was the land of the Klan and Jim Crow laws. You see, the victims and the killer were all African-American.

Between approximately 1909 and 1912 possibly as many as 20 women of color were strangled and then brutally slashed to death. Only one victim of the killer escaped – she described her assailant as a well-dressed African-American man.

I have to credit this site for posting the story – it shows real thought on the webmaster’s part. He or she saw, I think, what I saw in this story; an atrocity hidden in the folds of true crime’s bleak history. A killer who took more lives than Saucy Jack stalking London 22 years before him and got away with it because of institutionalized racism and oppression.

After reading the account I linked above I found another link to an Atlanta Constitution article written July 12, 1911. Imagine my surprise when the first person named on the page turned out to be a Huff.

Unfortunately Mr. Henry Huff was the first name in the article because he was a suspect and the article was about his arrest. A subsequent article found here details the arrest of another suspect, a Todd Henderson.

Apparently neither man was tried for these crimes, for a later article from a different paper states that victim number twenty was found nearly a year later.

There is a quote from the first old newspaper article, the one written July 12, 1911, that I think merits my posting here – it is a list of names area pastors gave authorities as part of a petition to the Governor and Mayor asking that they offer a reward for the capture of the Atlanta Ripper. I post it so that these women’s names are again placed into some kind of public record, and it is most pertinent because this blog is, after all, about Atlanta. These women lived in a time and place that didn’t treat their awful deaths with the gravity they deserved because of their skin color. One hopes a similar occurrence today would bring about a very different response from authorities, and a legacy that stays in the public memory with more permanence, like the Atlanta Child Murders some 60+ years later.

April 5, 1909, Della Reid, found dead in trash pile near 71 Rankin street.

September 7, 1909. unknown, found dead in Peachtree creek.

March 5, 1910. Estella Baldwin, 735 North Jackson street, concussion of brain.

April 5, 1910. Georgia Brown, 167 Martin street, gunshot wound.

April 6, 1910. Mattie Smith, 141 1/2 Peters street, gunshot wound.

May 6, 1910. Lavinia Ostin, gunshot wound.

May 23, 1910. Sarah Dukes, 119 Curran street, gunshot wound.

Francis Lampkin, 407 Foundry street, gunshot wound.

September 4, 1910. Eliza Griggs, 28 Dover street, gunshot wound.

October 6, 1910. Maggie Brooks, East Ellis street, killed on Hill street, near West Point and belt line.

February 3, 1911. Lucinda McNeal, 92 Spencer street, throat cut.

May 8, 1911. Rosa L Rivers, 122 Randolph street, shot.

May 29, 1911. Mary Walker, 228 Garibaldi street, throat cut.

June 15, 1911. Addie Watts, 30 Selman street, throat cut.

June 27, 1911. Lizzie Watkins, West Oakland street, throat cut.

July 2, 1911. Lena Sharp, 24 Hanover street, throat cut.

July 10, 1911. Sadie Hollis, killed on Gardner street, throat cut.

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