Author Archives: Staff


Lynching in Southwest Virginia

By James William Hagy

Some people have expressed surprise at the number of lynchings in Southwest Virginia, defined here as the seventeen counties and three cities west of Roanoke, because that mountainous area had few slaves or free persons of color prior to the Civil War when compared with the Tidewater and Piedmont areas. According to the 1860 census, seven of the fifteen counties at the time (Bland was created in 1861 and Dickenson in 1880) had fewer than 10% of African Americans. Buchanan had the lowest at 1%, while the highest numbers were in Montgomery with 22.3% and Pulaski with 29.5%.

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News & Events

Talk at the Culpeper Baptist Church

The Museum of Culpeper History invited Professor Gianluca De Fazio to deliver a talk on the “Racial Terror: Lynchings in Virginia, 1877-1927” project. The event will take place at the Culpeper Baptist Church on Friday, April12th at 5:30PM.

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Essay Rockingham

The Lynching of Charlotte Harris

By Tom Blair

On February 28, 1878, a barn burned in Rockingham County, Virginia. The event was reported by both of the newspapers operating at that time in the county seat of Harrisonburg. For the most part, these accounts read like insurance reports, giving dry details about the barn’s contents, the estimated value of the loss, and the amount insured by the East Rockingham Fire Insurance Company.

Some aspects of these stories, however, struck a different tone. The Rockingham Register categorically stated that the fire was the “diabolical” work of James Ergenbright, a 17-year-old African American, and that he had been induced to set the fire by “a colored woman named Charlotte Harris.” The Old Commonwealth reported that Ergenbright was in custody and that Harris was being pursued by officers of the law. “It is to be hoped,” the Register wrote, that the officers “have secured her.”

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News & Events

Presentation at the Current Research in Digital History Conference, GMU

On March 9, 2019, Professor Gianluca De Fazio will present a paper at the CRDH Conference at George Mason University in Arlington, VA. The paper, titled “Improving Lynching Inventories with Local Newspapers: Racial Terror in Virginia, 1877–1927”, discusses some of the findings of the lynching project. You can find the Conference Program here.


RRCHNM Logo George Mason University

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How Virginia’s ‘Rocket Docket’ Capital Punishment System Exploited Lynching Fear

By Dale M. Brumfield


Southern trees bear strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees …

-Strange Fruit, recorded by Billie Holiday, 1939

lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

At 6:30 a.m. on January 10, 1909, a black man named Charles Gillespie attacked and severely beat 19-year-old Marie Louise Stumpf, the white daughter of a prominent local brewer, on her way to early Mass at the Catholic Cathedral on Laurel Street in Richmond. An account of the attack on page two of the January 13 Lexington Dispatch stated that Stumpf “fought with the frenzy of fear for her life” in trying to escape her attacker. She was reportedly saved by a passerby, Mr. Irvin Pool, who heard her screams while escorting a female telephone operator to her job.

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News & Events

Talk at UVa-Wise

On March 18, Professor Gianluca De Fazio will deliver a lecture at UVa-Wise in Wise, VA, as part of the Black History Month Lecture Series. His talk  on “Racial Terror: Lynching in Virginia and its Legacy” will take place at 1PM in the SSC Rhododendron Room.

UVa-Wise Lecture Series

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1930-1939 Fauquier

Shedrick Thompson in Fauquier

Victim ID: VA1932091501
Victim Name: Shedrick Thompson
Race: Black
Sex: Male
Age: 39
Job: Unknown
Method of Death: Hanged
Accusation: Attack on a white man and white woman
Date: 1932-09-15
City: Linden
Mob Composition: Unknown
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News & Events

Virginia Senate Resolution Condemning Lynching

Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, sponsored a Senate joint resolution asking the General Assembly to “acknowledge with profound regret the existence and acceptance of lynching within the Commonwealth and call for reconciliation among all Virginians.” As part of the resolution, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission and the Department of Historic Resources together would pick sites for markers to document lynching, whose victims were primarily African-American. The identification of lynching victims will be based upon the Racial Terror website. You can read more in this article by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The Williamsburg Yorktown Daily has also interviewed Professor De Fazio about lynching in the Historic Triangle and the legacy of racial violence in the US South.

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News & Events

Second Essay Published

A second essay by Jim Hall has just been published in the essays section of the website! This essay reports about “An Eyewitness Account of Archer Cook Lynching” in Prince Edward County.

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Essay Prince Edward

An Eyewitness Account of Archer Cook Lynching


Richard Sanderson watched from his hotel window in August 1888 as twin columns of armed men, nearly 40 in all, galloped below on Main Street in Farmville, Va. Soon the men were out of sight, and all was quiet until shots broke the stillness. Sunrise brought an explanation for the strange sights and sounds of the night before: a black man was hanging from a tree at the edge of town.

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