Memorial recognizes DeKalb’s lynching victims

A piece of DeKalb County divisive racial history has officially been memorialized through the installation of a plaque in the Decatur Square, outside of the new DeKalb County courthouse.

The plaque, installed mid-May, serves as a historical marker to contextualize the lynchings of at least four Black people that occurred in DeKalb County. The project was led by the Remembrance Project Initiative of DeKalb’s chapter of the NAACP, which seeks to recognize and memorialize incidents of racial terrorism perpetrated throughout the United States and in localities, including DeKalb County.

“This historical marker signifies and displays the truth about racial terrorism to our black ancestors,” said DeKalb NAACP President Teresa Hardy in an emailed statement. “The fact that the same tactics are being repeated in 2020 i.e. Ahmaud [Arbery], Bre[onna Taylor], and George [Floyd] reminds us that we are not treated as United States citizens. In the eyes of some, we are still treated as slaves. It is now time to remember and remove racial and hatred policies and procedures that continue to oppress the black community.”

Troy Vincent, CEO of The Engraving House which installed the marker; D. E. Smith, chair of the DeKalb Remembrance Project; and DeKalb County NAACP President Teresa Hardy stand alongside the lynching memorial outside the DeKalb County courthouse. Photo provided by DeKalb NAACP

According to the Equal Justice Initiative, which is dedicated to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, there are at least four documented lynchings that occurred in DeKalb County between 1877 and 1950. Reuben Hudson Jr. was lynched in 1887 and Porter Turner was lynched in 1945. No record has been found of the names of the two unidentified men who were lynched after being accused of assaulting a postmaster’s daughter.

“When this [COVID-19] crisis has passed, we’ll look forward to a more formal ceremony and other activities to recognize this chapter in Dekalb County’s history so that it helps us understand what we need to do in the future to promote racial harmony and the impact of racial terrorism on a major segment of our population,” said Commissioner Jeff Rader during the May 26 Board of Commissioners meeting. The BOC gave approval of the project in November.    

A plaque also will be placed in downtown Lithonia, reportedly where members of a White mob attacked unidentified men. 

Inscriptions on the plaque in the Decatur Square provide background on the history of  lynchings in America, stating in part: “Lynching emerged as the most public and notorious form of racial terrorism and violence, intended to intimidate black people  and enforce racial hierarchy and segregation. Many African Americans were lynched following accusations of violating social customs, engaging in interracial relationships or committing crimes, even when there was no evidence tying the accused to any crime.”

Inscriptions on memorial marker in the Decatur Square provide background on the history of lynchings in America and DeKalb County. Photo provided by DeKalb County


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