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MLK Commission Work Group Spotlights The History Of Lynching In Virginia

Officials and community members gather last year at the site of the 1898 lynching of John Henry James in Charlottesville.
Officials and community members gathered last year at the site of the 1898 lynching of John Henry James in Charlottesville.

In February, Virginia became the first state in the country to pass a resolution acknowledging the tragedy of past lynchings. On Wednesday, members of a workgroup focused on the history of lynching met to discuss next steps.

There were over 100 known victims of lynching in Virginia from 1877 to 1927. Yet, it’s a history that’s stayed mostly hidden, until recently. Earlier this year, the history of lynching workgroup tried to help spread awareness by drafting a resolution that expressed “profound regret” for the lynchings.

“This resolution, and this opening doors to talk about lynching in Virginia is an incredible opportunity,” said historian Zann Nelson, who sits on the workgroup. “We have an opportunity with this workgroup...now that the resolution has passed, to really make a huge difference.”

Loundon County, Charlottesville and Charles City County have recently erected memorials to victims of lynching. The workgroup, chaired by Sen. Jennifer McClellan, wants to help other localities do the same thing. They are also working with the Department of Historic Resources and descendants of victims to better understand this overlooked chapter in Virginia’s past.

Click here to view the official database of more than 100 known Virginia lynchings from 1877 to 1927.

WCVE intern Malcolm Key produced this story.