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The 1866 lynching of John Taylor shows Michigan’s role in America’s history of racist violence

Topographic map of the counties of Ingham & Livingston, Michigan
Library of Congress
An 1859 map of Ingham and Livingston Counties.


Lynching is one of this country's darkest legacies. It claimed the lives of thousands of black Americans, particularly in the South. But the South wasn't the only place where mobs of white people brutally murdered black citizens. In the wake of the Civil War, Michigan saw three lynchings of African-American men by white mobs.

John Taylor was one of those men. 

On August 27, 1866, a mob of hundreds of white Ingham County residents hanged the 18-year-old farmhand.

Michael Pfeifer is a professor at the CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. He joined Stateside’s Lester Graham to discuss the murder of John Taylor.

Pfeifer said newspapers from the time offer varied accounts of the incident.

There seems to be a consensus that Taylor and his boss John Buck had a disagreement over Taylor's pay. Taylor was later accused of attacking Buck's female relatives, and according to some accounts at the time, murdering them.  

While Taylor is in jail awaiting trial, a mob of between 100 and 200 white men seized him from the jail and lynched the 18-year-old farmhand.

“These events are a part of the North's history as well, and not simply the South's history. And I think it's important to include the North and have the North think about its role in America’s troubled racial history,” Pfeifer said.

For years, the name of Deadman's Hill Park was the only public allusion to the 1866 lynching, but Delhi Township Parks Commission voted in July to rename it. The park is now the John Taylor Memorial Park.

Listen above to hear Pfeifer talk about the often forgotten history of lynchings in the North, and why there have been only a handful of efforts to memorialize the victims. 

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Sophie Sherry. 

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