As more historical markers are being placed across the country to remember lynching victims, Virginia is confronting its dark past and seeking to document as many cases as possible.

Researchers have already documented over 100 cases in the commonwealth including three in Loudoun County that are expected to be memorialized in the future.

However, for the amount of support there has been for memorializing those lynched, there is also a congregation that questioned the concept at a community discussion Thursday in Leesburg.

“Why?” one asked.

“It’s been this long, why should we?” asked another.

Those were among the questions posed at a discussion event sponsored by George Mason University graduate students from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Some attendees discussed where the memorial sites would be located and how it could be used for educational tourism purposes. Others expressed concern with the security, vandalism and intention of the memorials should they be built.

Lynching Memorial Discussion

Thoughts on display at the Douglass School in Leesburg during the March 14 discussion on establishing lynching markers and Virginia's history.

Dominion High School senior Genna Wolinsky, one of the discussion leaders, and two of her classmates attended the event that provided an opportunity to interact with approximately 100 people.

Wolinsky hoped her attendance would make a difference.

“[One man] said since he himself wasn’t a part of slavery, then why should he have to apologize for it, and I feel like this is a sentiment echoed by many today and is the reason that society hasn’t made as much progress as possible,” Wolinsky said. “Like my group discussed tonight, just because somebody wasn’t a part of the problem doesn’t mean they can’t be part of the solution.”

All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center Board Chairman Rizwan Jaka called the memorials an act of “justice” for those who were lynched.

"This is all about justice and honoring the memory of people who did not get justice,” Jaka said.

Priscilla Martinez, an advocate for interfaith and civic engagement, said she supports remembering those lynched.

“Just because there isn’t a rope involved today like there was back then doesn’t mean people’s lives aren’t being literally taken away early from them,” Martinez said. “Whether it's systemic racism, unfairness in law enforcement and criminal justice, peoples’ lives are still being taken away, so how is that not lynching happening today?”

Close to 100 local leaders and residents packed the school’s lunchroom, including Leesburg Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D), state Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-33rd), Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk, Vice Mayor Fernando Martinez and Councilman Ron Campbell.

Lynching Memorial Discussion -- Ron Campbell

On March 14, a discussion on establishing lynching markers took place at the Douglass School in Leesburg. The event was organized by George Mason University graduate students from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Pictured is Leesburg Town Council Member Ron Campbell speaking with residents and guests.

Attorney General Mark Herring (D), who shuffled around to hear different groups, said he enjoyed the dialogue format that allowed attendees to share their input with everyone in the room.

“ … What I heard was that a lot of people thought this was really important to do so that we are telling history more accurately—more fully,” Herring said. “Too often it’s been romanticized and if we are going to have reconciliation and promote healing and address ongoing inequities, then we need to be honest about our history and not think it was something that happened somewhere else. It happened right here too."

Herring is still trying to recover from his own race-related controversy. Following Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's yearbook photo scandal, Herring disclosed that he too wore blackface in the 1980s while dressing up as a rapper for a party.

The attorney general has apologized and said he wants to work to further racial understanding and reconciliation. 

The panel discussion comes shortly after the General Assembly passed a resolution for Virginia to acknowledge “with profound regret” the existence and acceptance of lynching in the commonwealth.

Democratic Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan from Richmond introduced the resolution co-patroned by Sen. Boysko. Democratic Del. Delores McQuinn (D-70th) introduced a similar resolution in the House.

McClellan, who is also the chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission, said after the anti-lynching statute was passed in 1928, lynchings continued to occur through the 1950s without any prosecution.

“We cannot heal as a society and achieve racial reconciliation if we are not honest about the trauma that occurred in our commonwealth to African-Americans to Native Americans, and to get beyond the trauma we have to talk about it in order to heal,” McClellan said.

The Richmond-based Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission and Department of Historic Resources are selecting sites for markers to document lynchings.

The commission will also compile the names and stories of victims of lynching in Virginia and create programmatic outreach to raise historic awareness.

Lynching Memorial Discussion -- Sen. McClellan

State Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (D)listens to conversations with local residents and guests at the March 15, 2019, forum in Leesburg on racial reconciliation and Virginia history.

Locally, Phillip Thompson and researchers say three lynchings of black men occurred in Loudoun County between 1880 and 1902: Page Wallace in 1880, Orion Anderson in 1889 and Charles Craven in 1902. All were between the ages of 18 and 25.

In August, Thompson announced a project to establish markers at the three lynching sites.

The incidents reportedly occurred along Route 15 near Point of Rocks, in the former Potter’s Field at the corner of East Market and Catoctin Circle in Leesburg and at the old train station near Tuscarora Mill, also in Leesburg.

The project moved forward in September when Leesburg Town Council unanimously approved a memorial marker at the former Potter’s Cemetery, now the intersection of East Market Street and Catoctin Circle, to remember the lynching of Craven.

Thompson is still working with county officials to establish the remaining two markers.

Once the project is completed, the soil from each site — like many across the country — will be collected and sent to the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice, also known as the National Lynching Memorial, in Alabama. The memorial, which was created to honor the victims of lynching, was founded by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and opened in April.

Thompson moderated a panel discussion Thursday, as did NAACP President Michelle Thomas, Loudoun County Historical Preservation Planner Heidi Siebentritt, longtime Loudoun County resident Shirley Carpenter, Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership Founding President Emerita Cathleen Magennis Wyatt and Sen. McClellan.

Lynching Memorial Discussion Group

On March 14, a discussion on establishing lynching markers took place at the Douglass School in Leesburg. The event was organized by George Mason University graduate students from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Pictured is Loudoun County resident Tanja Thompson and her fellow graduate students from George Mason.

(9) comments

Locojrt

I am so on board with Scott and Bob O. Tearing down statues, putting up plaques...none of these actions negate history. "Unsocial media" has given way too many platforms to way too many things, thoughts, issues that aren't, or shouldn't be, issues! Being PC is so ridiculous and out of hand that no mattervwhat you say, do, agree with or disagree with, ticks SOMEBODY off! Those statues in Richmond, the one on the Courthouse...get over it. It is HISTORY, done, gone, not forgotten but dredging it up and belaboring it has become more than tedious. If there was a statue of a black person on the grounds I would not be afraid to go to court. I grew up with that, it was a soldier representative of the Civil War. He was neither blue nor gray. I guess my LCPS education back in the 50s and 60s was remiss in not making an issue of that. Don't blacks now take out more of their own then us "white folks"? Maybe that should take the energy of the NAACP. Has the system been broken, yes, but look forward, work forward. And BTW, we do not need lynching plaques! Do something positive with the money, whether it's donated or my taxes. Do you realky want someone researching, as was oointed out, as to WHY they were hanged. Oops! My bad, still someone else's fault. This county is going to hell in a handbasket!

downtownres

Well said scottva except for the abortion part, (I agree with jke), That needs to be left out of this discussion. Otherwise why not put this effort and passion towards the under supported Loudoun Museum and expand it with the various and diverse history, with all of this information, and make it a yearly stop for ALL children in school, public and private as well as home schooled. Have open discussions about the true history of this entire country, as well as the rest of the world. Don't just try to tout the "good parts" and ignore the many many injustices done by settlers and leaders of this country.

CindyLou

Wow, some of these comments??? Here is the bottom line.....If your not an African American, you don't get it. That's pretty clear by these comments. Read what White Americans did to Black Americans, read it...understand it.....and try to get it.

amerigirl

Are these memorials going to be made to recognize each individual by their merits? How about if the crime they committed was worthy of death? I just don't want to see a convicted rapist memorialized. Wasn't one of the slaved that was hanged in Loudoun in jail for rape, escaped , then raped again? That is not the type of person we should be honoring with any kind of marker or memorial.

Concerned

The gentrification of Waterford and the sale of slaves in Waterford warrants attention too. What happened to African-American community in Waterford? Their churches? Their schools? The answer is the gentrification lead by the Waterford Foundation.

BobOhneiserEsq

History is important to understand and appreciate so even if a wiff of similar sickening behavior is noticed it can be dealt with immediately. The issues here should be what percent of our time should be historically Virginia centric and what percent of our efforts toward fairness should be focused on our community now. Wasn't the massacre of Nanjing, China by the Japanese, the holocaust, the abandonment of Hungary by the world as Hitler attacked, and the internment of Japanese citizens during WW2 and the treatment of American Indians also symbolic of the cruelty of man to their fellow man? Our local "leaders" didn't even consider slavery before naming LCPS schools after farm families who used slaves before memorializing the family names. The poorest part of our community isn't even allowed to attend the elementary school the children could walk to but instead are bused quite inconveniently to four schools near the fringe of Leesburg. Why is that? How is that not discriminatory to a current element of our community while we focus on statues and relics. How many of our minority population can't take the advanced courses the Academies of Loudoun offer because of bureaucratic fantasy that only construction, HVAC, security, hair dressing, culinary arts and advanced inquiry based math and science can truly be taught on a centralized basis? I suggest that global history along with Virginia history counts and should be understood but put our utmost attention on children being educated in our community right now for action, accountability and absolute FAIRNESS.

scottva

(100) blacks were apparently lynched in VA and (3) were lynched in Loudoun County between 1880-1902. Can't roll back time and I wish it never happened. You want a memorial? Go for it, no harm and cannot forget. My problem isn't with the memorial, my issue is with the continued resentment, blame and accusatory rhetoric aimed at white people today. There is not one single white person alive today that was/is a slave owner and not one single black person alive today that was/is a slave from 150+ years ago. Remembering the past (whatever it may be) is critical and therapeutic to be able to move forward in life. However, living in past, full of resentment is unhealthy, unproductive and keeps people in a perpetual loop (groundhog day). This perpetual loop is what keeps the racial gap/divide very much alive.

There's clearly a lot of passion, support and energy for erecting "Lynching Memorials" in VA and Loudoun County. There were many local leaders at this meeting but this initiative has much more support, from AG Herring and the NAACP to State Senators and the MLK Memorial Commission and Dept. of Historic Resources. Quite a number of people, groups and walk of life involved, which is great.

After reading this article, we've learned that there were (100) blacks that were lynched in VA and (3) in Loudoun. However, is (100) lynchings considered a lot? I mean, it's not a very big number, it seems kind of small and it happened well over 117+ years ago. Look at the significant amount of support and resources involved in creating these "Lynching Memorials" for only (100) blacks. Imagine if 330,000+ blacks were murdered by another black in the past 40 years what type of support and attention this would get (this does NOT include abortions)! It get's zero, zilch, nothing. Why? These (100) blacks that were lynched should not be forgotten and the memorials is the right idea but why ignore the elephant in the room? Why won't these same people, that are passionate about the memorials, speak out about black genocide in the US? Virginia's not alone, no one wants to discuss this topic across the entire country. Why? Is there a Committee somewhere that is currently designing a "Black on Black Murder Memorial" for 330,000+ that have been murdered? Nope, no one will ever admit to it and no acknowledgment means it must not exist.

Sadly, there many reasons the entire racial discussion rarely makes forward progress: Resentment, Blame, Lack of Honesty, Short Sightedness and Ignoring Reality.

jke

If you put abortion in the same category we will need a whole bunch more plaques.

amerigirl

same old mantra, can you stick with the issues? Have you got anything productive to say about this article?

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