Colored Man Hung

January 6, 1900


The Planet offers a detailed account of a black man’s hanging.


COLORED MAN HUNG - For Murder of W.M. Jolly In Dinwiddie.
He Claimed Self-Defense.

PETERSBURG, VA., January 2 – Junius Robinson (colored) was hanged in the jail yard at Dinwiddie court house to-day for the murder, on the 31st of October last, of Mr. W. M. Jolly a prominent merchant and citizen of the county. Robinson was arrested on the day after the crime, and was sent to the jail in this city, as a measure of safety, the feeling in the county being very strong against him. Mr. Jolly, who was shot through the abdomen by Robinson, died on the following day, after being put on the train to be brought to the home for the Sick in this city for treatment.
Robinson was brought to trial at the November term of the County Court of Dinwiddie, Judge B J Epes presiding. The evidence against him was brief and positive, the jury were out only fifteen minutes, and a verdict of murder in the first degree was rendered. The Court sentenced him to be hanged on January 2nd, and this sentence was carried into execution to-day. The prisoner after sentence was immediately brought back to the jail in this city to be kept until today. During his confinement here he made a good prisoner, giving no trouble whatsoever, nor any cause for complaint. He was allowed to see his friends at all times, and had the benefits of constant spiritual advice. The Rev. Farrell, a colored pastor of the city was with him and administered to him at all times.
He was taken from the jail to the county court-house this morning by Sheriff Young. Before leaving he shook hands with the officers of the jail, wished them all well, and babe them a cheerful good-bye. Cuffs were placed upon his wrists, and in his hand a Bible. A large number of colored people assembled at the depot to see him off, but no signs of feeling were shown.
The execution was very quiet. The scaffold had been erected in the jail-yard, and a high fence built around it to exclude the public view. Many people had assembled at the court-house, through curiosity, but every-thing was orderly. Only a limited number of persons were admitted to witness the execution.
Robinson, accompanied by his spiritual adviser, and Deputy-Sheriff Boiseau and Fisher, who adjusted the [gap] and rope, ascended the scaffold without fear or the tremor of a muscle, as far as could be observed. His firmness was remarkable, and from the appearance of his features, one might have judged that he was going to a sense of pleasure, instead of death.
After prayer by the Rev. Farrell Robinson made a few remarks to those around him, more in the nature of advice than otherwise. He advised all med, and young men, especially, against strong drink and its evil consequences. He warned them against carrying pistols. “If you have pistols,” said he, “leave them at home; if you have not, it is better to leave them in the stores.” It was probably strong drink that got Robinson into his trouble, and it was his pistol that killed his victim. Other advice of like character he gave.
All arrangements having been [plated], the trap was sprung at 11:07 A. M. Three ropes connected with the trigger were simultaneously pulled from the jail by the Sheriff and his deputies. The body shot down, and remained almost stationary—very little twitching or contraction being observed. In eight minutes the attending physician, Dr. Briggs, pronounced the man dead. Fifteen minutes, however, were allowed to elapse before the body was cut down. The neck was broken by the fall, and death was easy.
The body, which was subsequently viewed by the crowd of people present, was not claimed by any one, and will, therefore, be shipped to a medical college in Richmond.
Robinson leaves a wife in North Carolina, and a mother and other relatives in Dinwiddie county. None of them came near him during his confinement in jail, and when asked if her wished to see any of them answered with an emphatic “No.”
Robinson was 21 years old and came to Dinwiddie county from North Carolina to work as a laborer on the Richmond, Petersburg and Carolina railroad. He, with others, had been several times warned by Mr. Jolly against travelling across his farm.
On the night of the fatal shooting Mr. Jolly found Robinson near his house, and ordered him to leave. This the colored man refused to do, and his languages and conduct were such that Mr. Jolly went towards him to enforce his order. Thereupon Robinson drew his pistol, shot Mr. Jolly down, and then left the farm.
Robinson claimed that he shot Mr. Jolly to save his own life; that Mr. Jolly pursued him with a drawn knife, and that he acted in self-defense, as any other man would have done while there were witnesses to the shooting, none of them appeared in court to testify to these claims of self-defense.
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Contributed By

Elizabeth Lopez-Lopez


“Colored Man Hung,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed May 21, 2019,