100 to 150 Negroes Die in Fire at Natchez; Trapped as Flames Sweep a Dance Hall
NATCHEZ, Miss., Wednesday,
April 24 - Sheriff Hyde R. Jenkins
said that at least 100 Negroes were
burned to death in a dance hall
fire here late, last night.
Others estimated the death toll at
R. E. Smith, managing editor of
The Natchez Democrat, said that
the bodies were "piled up like cordwood."
Almost all the Negro population
of Natchez gathered, at the scene
Thirty or forty other Negroes,
burned or injured in the stampede
to leave the flaming building, were
taken to hospitals.
Mr. Smith, who also is County
Coroner, said that the building in
which the dance was held was formerly
a church and had an exit
only at the front. The windows had
been boarded up.
The hall was decorated with
Spanish moss, which is highly inflammable,
and apparently caught
fire near the front, trapping everyone inside.
Most of the bodies were found in
a heap near the bandstand at the
rear. It was estimated that several
hundred Negroes were in attendance.
The hall, known as the Rhythm
Night Club, featured regular dances
at which music was furnished by
nationally known bands.
Located on St. Catherine Street,
in the Negro section, the building
was only a few blocks fr6m the
city's commercial district.
April 24, 1940 edition of "The New York Times"