|Birth: ||Jun. 23, 1901|
|Death: ||Apr. 30, 1917|
The inscription on the monument reads:
"Sleep on dear and take your rest,
In the arms of Jesus blest"
Described as "[i]nnocent, pure, pretty, by turns playful and pensive" and as someone who "must have reminded many readers of their own daughters, nieces, or cousins", Rappel was a student at Treadwell School in Memphis. On the morning of 30 April 1917, she left for school and did not return; on 2 May 1917 a newspaper published a story which said she left to join the war, a story her mother, Mrs Wood, reportedly believed. Later, Rappel was found dead, with evidence she had been raped, in woods near Macon Road and half a mile from the home of Persons, a nearly fifty year-old woodcutter. She had been decapitated with an axe. At the scene, they found a white coat, a white handkerchief, and axe dents in the ground. After the arrests of several black men, the police brought in Persons, and subjected him to brutal treatment for 24 hours, after which the police said he confessed to the murder. Eager to prove Persons' guilt, Mike Tate, Shelby County sheriff, ordered that Rappel's body be exhumed so that they could look at her pupils, because the authorities thought that a photograph of the pupils could be used to show the last image seen by a person who had died, a theory developed by Alphonse Bertillon, a French biometrics researcher of that time. Despite being told by eye specialists that it would be impossible, the authorities said they saw Persons in Rappel's pupils—which showed a "frozen expression of horror"—and he was taken to Tennessee State Prison in Nashville to await arraignment and trial.
A few weeks later, on 19 May, Tate ordered that Persons be returned to stand trial on 25 May, and on 21 May Persons was on a train to Memphis when he was captured by a lynch party, an event which was planned and which was reportedly anticipated by the authorities. The group had earlier stormed the Memphis police headquarters and did not find him there; knowing he had to return, they started searching trains bounded for Memphis. The press reported that the mob was organised—one newspaper reporting "That the mob ... is determined to lynch the Negro is evident"—and may even have raised funds for those spying on Persons at Nashville. David J. Mays, who later became an attorney and Pulitzer Prize winner, was one of those involved in the planning; he "howled with excitement" when he heard the news of the capture, news that quickly spread to nearby towns. On 17 May judges from the county criminal court had tried but failed to persuade the state governor, Thomas Clarke Rye, to send men to protect Persons. Even before the capture, the press had been predicting that unofficial action would be taken against him. There is no evidence, according to Margaret Vandiver and Michel Coconis, that the authorities tried to regain Persons or to prevent the lynching.
The story can be read in it's entirety on Wikipedia. Look up Antonetty Rappel.
Forest Hill Cemetery Midtown
Plot: Section 17
Created by: Sue Lee Johnson
Record added: Feb 29, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 86014861