ZANN’S PLACE: Digging deeper into interesting stories

Another teaser to feed your “anticipation.”

Coming to a newspaper near you- that would be the Culpeper Times, of course- will be a series of stories on a tragic act of terrorism in our beloved America: the practice of lynching. Right out of the gate let me state that I know it is ugly, frightening and gruesome.  I also know that across the country communities where lynching occurred have not truly healed. They have not owned the travesties, nor perhaps do they recognize the relevance in the current acts of violence in the name of hatred, bigotry, oppression and white supremacy.  We can do better and that is my goal.

I have no fantasies of changing the world, however, I am compelled to do my small part.  If you and others will read the stories all supported by facts, you will certainly become better informed and dare I say enlightened.  We have stuck our heads in the sand, turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to horrific events meant to oppress a people through unadulterated fear. It is time we lift the veil and examine the facts.  

You may be questioning: why now? It is my fervent hope that the atrocities perpetrated against people who were different and particularly those of a darker skin tone will always remain in our past, though the evidence of current-day hate groups and the resurgence of Ku Klux Klan activities would contradict that hope.  The heinous acts of our fathers cannot be undone, but their transgressions continue to impact us all regardless of our ethnicity or religious beliefs in ways that are unhealthy and counterproductive to a progressive civilized nation. We can do better!

We can own our past, validate the victims and condemn such conduct then and now.  The first step as uncomfortable as it might be is to learn the truth about a few of the events.  The Equal Justice Initiative recently opened a memorial in Montgomery, Alabama to victims of lynching.  They have documented four thousand individuals who were murdered between the years of 1877 and 1955. Most were black men, but not all.

Two of the victims were from Culpeper County, VA: Charles Allie Thompson (1918) and William Thompson (1877). We have learned of a third: the lynching of a free person of color in 1850. No doubt there were others who died of mysterious or undocumented causes. Nonetheless, we will focus on these three.

The story of Allie Thompson was meticulously researched by myself in 2005 and a three-part series was co-authored by Alison Brophy- Champion and myself and published in 2006 by the Culpeper Star Exponent.  I continued the research and discovered additional facts; we will have a look at those facts again.

The story of William Thompson, no relation to Charles Allie Thompson, headlined in The Monongahela Republican (Pennsylvania) How They Do in Virginia: “An outrage was committed on the person of a young white girl by a negro man in the vicinity of Mitchells Station. Certainty, and severity, of punishment, is the only remedy for such heinous crimes.”  The statements were republished from an article in a local Culpeper paper. William Thompson was arrested then kidnapped from the jail and hanged before any evidence was collected or a trial conducted.

I was alerted to the third known incident by friend and history buff Tim Thompson (also no relation to the two Thompson men noted here).  The man’s name was William Grayson and in 1850 he was accused of a crime and tried at court, but the locals were not satisfied with the outcome and chose to take matters into their own hands.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story!

Until next week, be well.

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