Moss, a dark-skinned, chin-bearded, 150-pound man, lay shoeless with his face to the earth. Stewart, the grocery clerk, lay with a shotgun hole in the right side of his neck. To the south of them lay McDowell, a light-skinned, curly-haired, 200-pound man, butchered to the point of dismemberment. “There were four holes in his face and neck, any one of them large enough to allow the insertion of a person’s fist,” the Appeal Avalanche reported.
They were the first lynchings since the Civil War, explains Wells—who was a dear friend to Moss—in her book Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells. At the time, Moss was enjoying the fruits of a successful business. The cooperative economics enterprise he founded in 1889, People’s Grocery, was a booming business in the “Curve,” a mixed race neighborhood, which at the time was the Shelby County, Tennessee fourteenth civil district, just outside Memphis.