Jesse Thornton

Location: Crenshaw County, Alabama

Age: 26

Year: 1940

Jesse Thornton, 26, was an overseer on a chicken farm who was killed in 1940 by a group of men led by police officers Doris Rhodes and Noland Ellis in Crenshaw County, Alabama.

Thornton was accused of failing to address Rhodes as “Mr.” when he passed him on the sidewalk.

In response, Rhodes knocked Thornton down with his blackjack, arrested him and took him to jail where a group of police officers shot him to death.

His body was found in a swamp.

For more information, search CRRJ’s archive.

Read more about Thornton’s death on the Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive

About the Archive

The Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive houses case files and documents for more than 1,000 cases of racial homicides in the Jim Crow South. Co-founded by Melissa Nobles, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Margaret Burnham, CRRJ director and professor of law at Northeastern, these uncovered stories highlight how violence affected lives, defined legal rights and shaped politics between 1930 and 1954.

Documents relating to Thornton's death

Death Certificate of Jesse Thornton, Alabama, Center for Health Statistics, filed July 9, 1940.

Death certificate of Jesse Thornton. Courtesy of the Archive.
For newspaper reports, advocacy group documents and more, search our archive.
Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive

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