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Red Summer

John Hartfield was burned

Thursday Jun 26, 1919
Ellisville, Mississippi, U.S.

John Hartfield left his home in Ellisville seeking a better life in East St. Louis. In 1919, he traveled back to Ellisville to visit his white girlfriend, Ruth Meeks, taking a job as a hotel porter in Laurel. When the relationship became known to some white men, they determined to kill Hartfield. They accused Hartfield of raping Meeks, who they claimed was 18, although she was actually in her mid-twenties. Hartfield managed to elude them for a while, but they pursued him for several weeks. Sheriff Allen Boutwell in Laurel raised donations to fund a hunting party with bloodhounds at the request of Sheriff Harbison. He was finally apprehended attempting to board a train on June 24, and was turned over to Sheriff Harbison, who placed him in the charge of a deputy and left town. The deputy immediately released him to a mob. Hartfield had been wounded, so a white doctor, A. J. Carter, treated his wounds to keep him alive long enough to be murdered. At 5:00 PM on June 26, 1919, a large cheering crowd assembled to watch the premeditated murder of John Hartfield.