Making Such Noises

September 15, 1822.

A tumult rolled down the street.* The mass of white men screeched and hollered, cackled and snorted, their great ethanol fueled ruckus inspired disdain and disgust from the quieter townsfolk of Madison county. For six hours they festered along the streets of Huntsville, a blister becoming bile.

It popped at the sight of others.

Anderson Wesson, Francis L. Adams, and Littleberry Wade “together with divers other evil disposed persons to the number of ten or more,” participated in the aforementioned impromptu parade. They cackled and screamed and “continued together making such noises,” for several hours. The documents described all three rioters as yeomen farmers.

As usual, we have no true indication of their motives, but the three men chose to attack two enslaved persons whilst mid-tumult.

Tom and Milly made the horrifying mistake of being black and powerless in front of a crowd of drunk white men. They were beaten and clubbed, “cut bruised and wounded” in some mad and vicious way, with the ultimate intent to be their deaths.

Luckily they survived.

However, the wounds were so severe, the crime so great, that for the first time in Madison county history – the courts neglected to mention either Tom or Milly’s owner.

As we’ve seen before, interracial violence never really remained interracial, instead being prosecuted as an assault by one white person upon the economic productivity of another. So although it brought no comfort to Milly or Tom, this assault resulted in the first instance of Madison county conceptualizing an enslaved person as a person.

So I guess that’s something.

The courts fined Wesson ten dollars, Wade fifty, and Adams twenty-five.


The State of Alabama v. Andrew Wesson & Littleberry Wade & c., Madison County Alabama Circuit Court State Cases, 1819-1823. p. 200-202 (1823).

*Tumult – n. More than three white men from Alabama gathered in a group, usually drunk. Like a murder of crows, band of horses, or squad of squid.

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