Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)

Degree Level





Jeannie Whayne

Committee Member

Michael C. Pierce

Second Committee Member

Patrick G. Williams


Catcher Arkansas;Catcher Race Riot;Effie Latimer;Racial Cleansing;Sundown Town;William Bettis


Following the brutal murder of a young white woman in late 1923, the rural town of Catcher, Arkansas divided along racial lines. Rumors that the woman had been raped and murdered by three Black men angered a portion of the white community who formed a 500-person mob to punish the accused. After an unsuccessful attempt at lynching the men, a small portion of this mob turned its attention to the remaining Black citizens still residing around Catcher. Anonymous notices were posted at several locations throughout the community threatening Black citizens to leave or suffer the consequences. Eleven men armed themselves inside a building, refusing to give in to these warnings. Only after the National Guard was called in did the men finally throw down their guns. When the dust finally settled in Catcher, one Black man was dead, fifteen Black men were in jail, and around three hundred Black citizens had fled the region with nothing but the clothes on their back. This work reviews exactly what occurred in Catcher, Arkansas in late 1923. Going beyond that, though, it examines how this small town reflects much larger trends occurring inside Arkansas and the rest of the Jim Crow South in the early twentieth century. This racial cleansing provides an excellent case study to understand how southern communities could drive out undesired Black citizens through a combination of anonymous threats, extrajudicial violence, and legal means. All of this helped accomplish the overall goal of ‘cleansing’ the community of Black members while also allowing white members to seize lucrative land and mineral rights from Black citizens who had legally held claim to the area for decades. Examining this history helps cast a fleeting light on an otherwise hidden history and looks to understand why that history has been intentionally forgotten in these areas to this day.

Available for download on Monday, June 14, 2027

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