In an act of the latest public acknowledgment of South Carolina's racist past, a Black lynching memorial was erected near revered Confederate sites.
Black Lynching marker in memory of Anthony Crawford killed at the hands of a mob is opened in Abbeville, SC recounting Crawford’s life and giving an overview of racial violence in South Carolina. How do public feel about this event? Let us find out:
In this small South Carolina town near the Georgia line, where some say the Confederacy was born and died, descendants of a man lynched 100 years ago are erecting a downtown memorial to him and other black men killed by white mobs after the Civil War. The memorial names seven other men lynched in Abbeville County from 1877 to 1950 and says “lynching — or murder at the hands of a mob — became a tool for re-establishing white supremacy and terrorizing the black community.”
Abbeville City Council authorized the marker that will be unveiled Saturday, 100 years and one day after Anthony Crawford was beaten, dragged out of town with a noose around his neck and hanged from a tree where his body was riddled with bullets.
Anthony Crawford is seen in this undated photo provided by the Crawford Family. (Courtesy of the Crawford family via AP)
Crawford’s marker will sit in front of Abbeville’s Opera House in the town’s brick-lined central square. A quarter-mile from there, visitors can find Secession Hill, where locals in November 1860 passed the first resolution calling for South Carolina to leave the U.S. A quarter-mile another way is the Burt-Stark Mansion, where Confederate President Jefferson Davis, fleeing Union troops, met for the last time with his war council in May 1865 and declared all was lost.
“You have all of this Confederate memorabilia, but nothing that talked to the black experience. So we wanted to do something big and bold and outdoors,” said Doria Johnson, Crawford’s great-great-granddaughter.
The marker and stories from the Abbeville Press and Banner recount what befell Crawford, called “a negro of wealth” in the newspaper’s headline after he was lynched on Oct. 21, 1916. The 56-year-old farmer, who owned more than 400 acres, got in an argument with a store owner as he tried to sell his cotton seed. A mob began seeking Crawford after he was accused of cursing at the white owner.
The crowd cornered Crawford in the boiler room of a nearby cotton gin. Crawford struck one of his attackers with a hammer, then was beaten severely before the sheriff could save him and take him to the Abbeville County jail for his own safety. But the mob of up to 400 people soon overwhelmed the sheriff and his deputies and lynched Crawford.
No one was ever tried for the lynching — a frequent outcome when witnesses refused to testify about mob violence for fear of their own safety and livelihood. See more
Phillip Crawford, a descendant of Anthony Crawford, is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016, in Abbeville, S.C. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins) (The Associated Press)
The nonprofit’s director, Bryan Stevenson, said the aim is to help “change the landscape” of American racial discourse by openly acknowledging a painful past, much as Germany has Holocaust memorials and South Africa a museum on its past state-sanctioned segregation – apartheid.
“I don’t think we can afford to continue pretending that there aren’t these really troubling chapters in our history,” Stevenson said. “I think we’ve got to deal with it.”
A photo from 1938 shows the lynching of a black man in Ruston, Louisiana state [Getty Images]
Not everyone is on board with a black lynching memorial.
Marlin Taylor, an African-American visitor from Spokane, Washington, was surprised by it.
“With the climate in America right now, I don’t know that that’s a good idea,” Taylor said at the civil rights memorial outside the Southern Poverty Law Center, a public-interest law firm. “I feel like that could be more divisive than anything.” See more
Looks like not everyone is onboard with the idea. We, however, fully support this initiative. It is a pity the family had to gather funds for the memorial for 14 years. The money for such memorials should be given by the government. More than that, Black lynching memorials should be erased in every city where the lynching happened. We demand compensation and reparation for the lynching of Black people!