Does anyone know a good recipe for crow?

Zann Nelson and I were the guests this week on Town Talk, Ted Schubel’s radio show on WFVA in Fredericksburg.

Last month I predicted in this blog that the Virginia General Assembly would reject a proposed lynching resolution. Today I’m trying to decide on the best way to cook crow.

Members of the state Senate passed the resolution on Wednesday, and those in the House passed it yesterday. Both votes were unanimous.

I was also wrong in describing the resolution as “moderate.” It is not. The resolution is written with the frankness of someone who is finally able to say how he or she really feels. It traces the history of racism in Virginia from slavery, through lynching, to disenfranchisement, forced segregation, and denied civil rights.  It concludes that this legacy “has yet to be uprooted in Virginia.”

Much of the credit for the document goes to Zann Nelson, a researcher, writer and Culpeper activist. Nelson explained this week that she was drawn to the topic while researching the lynching of Allie Thompson in Culpeper in 1918. She thought there must be some way of apologizing to Thompson’s descendants and to the descendants of Virginia’s other lynching victims. “It’s long overdue to put this topic on the table,” she said.

Nelson found allies in the General Assembly, including Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and the state’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission. The result of this partnership was a document modeled after the Assembly’s 2007 resolution that apologized for the state’s role in slavery.

The lynching resolution “acknowledges with profound regret the existence and acceptance” of lynching in Virginia. It calls on the King Commission to compile a database of the state’s lynch victims, and it asks the Department of Historic Resources to identify sites where markers can be erected.

The first of these markers is scheduled to be placed in Charles City County this spring. It recalls the death of Isaac Brandon in 1892. Brandon was accused of the assault of a white woman. A mob of masked men abducted him from the county jail and hanged him from a tree in the courthouse yard.

There are many other cases like Brandon’s that await public notice. By one count, there’s at least 109 of them.

PS: Please join me on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 9:30 a.m. I’ll be at Germanna Community College (Fredericksburg Area Campus, 10000 Germanna Point Drive) to talk about my book, The Last Lynching in Northern Virginia, and about lynching in Virginia.

Have thumb drive, will travel

germanna
Germanna Community College this week sponsored a program on publishing your first book. Participants were (from left) Rick Pullen, Howard Owen, Jim Hall, David Sam, Cory MacLauchlin and Chris Brown.

I expected to promote The Last Lynching in Northern Virginia after publication, but I didn’t realize that promotion would take the form that it has. I thought I would go to signings, sit behind a table, and talk to those who wanted to buy the book. I’ve done that and enjoy it very much.

But I’m also a man with a thumb drive and PowerPoint slides who travels the region, talking about lynching, especially lynchings in Virginia. I talk about the lynching I know best, the 1932 Fauquier County incident that is the subject of my book. But I spend as much or more time on other cases, such as the 1893 death of William Shorter. Shorter was pulled from a train outside Winchester, Va., and hanged beside the track. He was accused of murder and was with a deputy sheriff on his way to trial, but the residents of Winchester couldn’t wait.

All of a sudden, I’ve become something of an expert on lynching. I’ve given talks about it in Richmond, Culpeper, Manassas, Stafford and Fredericksburg. This month I will talk to a history class and a journalism class at the University of Mary Washington. Next month I’m at the Central Rappahannock library in Fredericksburg, and after that the Afro-American Historical Association in Fauquier County and the Fall for the Book festival at George Mason University in Fairfax County.

I’m making good use of my master’s degree research, when I studied how Virginia newspapers covered lynching. I found accounts of maybe 50 of the 70 incidents that occurred in the state from 1880-1930, including the 1897 death of Joseph McCoy. A mob dragged McCoy from the jail in Alexandria and hanged him from a lamppost at the corner of Cameron and Lee streets. He had been accused of the assault of a child.

I talked to a videographer this week when I spoke at a program sponsored by Germanna Community College. I’m thinking about making a video of one of my talks and placing it on YouTube. Who knows? Maybe I’ve found a new career as a speaker.