Laura and Lawrence Nelson
were African-Americans who were lynched
in Okemah, Oklahoma
, on May 25, 1911.
Laura, her husband, her 15-year-old son Lawrence, and her baby were taken into custody after Lawrence shot and killed Okemah's deputy sheriff, George Loney, when Loney and a posse turned up at the Nelson's home to investigate the theft of a cow. Laura's husband pleaded guilty to the theft and was sent to the relative safety of the state prison. In an effort to save her son, Laura said she had fired the fatal shot. Both she and Lawrence were arrested, the son taken to the local jail and Laura to a cell in the courthouse.
Three weeks later a mob of 40 armed white men arrived to kidnap them, tying up the guard and dragging off the mother and son. Laura was raped, according to some reports, then both were hanged from a bridge over the North Canadian River
Hundreds of sightseers gathered on the bridge the following morning, and photographs of the bodies were sold as postcards. The killers were never identified.
The event was later commemorated in a number of songs by the folk singer Woody Guthrie
, whose father attended the lynching.
The Nelsons were among at least 4,743 people lynched in the United States
between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 of them black, 73 percent of them in the South