‘No requiem, save the night wind’

One of the many things that enraged civil right advocate Ida B. Wells about lynching was the lack of remembrance for the victims. For Wells, the deaths were bad enough, but the shame and terror that accompanied those deaths were worse.

“They had no requiem, save the night wind, no memorial service to bemoan their sad and horrible fate,” Wells wrote in 1889.

Lynch victims are remembered at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala.

I thought of Wells’ lament when I wrote of Arthur Jordan and his lynching in my new book, Condemned for Love in Old Virginia. I tried to place Jordan on a lynching timeline, showing how racial terror was gaining momentum in Virginia in 1880 when he died. But I did not list the 11 Black people lynched before him or the 82 who followed.

So here are the names, where known, of those earliest victims­ ­— 10 Black men and one Black woman — along with the dates and locations of their murders. They were accused of assault, murder, arson, running for political office and being a “notorious thief.” None ever saw the inside of a courtroom.

They are remembered here as victims of hate-filled white mobs, and as the earliest sign of a brewing storm.

James Holden                         1866                           Accomack      

Unnamed Negro                     1866                            Nelson

Joseph R. Holmes                  1869                            Charlotte

Jesse Edwards                       1869                            Lexington

Charles Brown                        1869                            Front Royal

Jacob Berryman                    1869                            Front Royal

Wyche Drumgoole                 1870                            Lawrenceville

Bill Nichols                             1870                           Madison         

William Thompson                 1877                            Culpeper         

Charlotte Harris                      1878                            Rockingham

Columbus Miles                      1880                           Amherst

(My thanks to Prof. Ginaluca De Fazio of James Madison University for compiling this information. His website, Racial Terror: Lynching in Virginia, https://sites.lib.jmu.edu/valynchings/, is an invaluable resource.)

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