Lynchings by County (click for details)

Racial Terror: Lynching in Virginia is an ongoing research project examining one of the darkest, yet almost forgotten, pages of American history: the lynching of thousands of people in the US South. In particular, this website focuses on telling the stories of all the known lynching victims who were killed in Virginia between 1866 and 1932, most of them African American men. Even though a small number of the victims of mob violence were white, lynching was essentially a form of state-sanctioned terrorism against African Americans – almost none of the lynchers ever faced trial, and even fewer were indicted for their crimes. Lynching was indeed a key institution in the preservation of white supremacy in the Jim Crow South.

In addition to telling the stories of lynching that so often have been erased from local histories and collective memories, this website also stores almost 600 historical newspaper articles describing those barbaric acts of ‘popular justice’. These articles are available for anyone to read and use for their own research. A map of Virginia is also provided to display where each lynching occurred.

As this project is a work in progress, the website will be periodically updated with information about events, sources, tools to explore the database, as well as in-depth investigations of single lynchings and analysis of geographical, temporal and sociological patterns of racial violence in Virginia.

  • Steven Thomas
    November 4, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Forum participants call for state to acknowledge — and teach about — lynchings in Virginia https://hburgcitizen.com/2019/09/17/forum-participants-call-for-state-to-acknowledge-and-teach-about-lynchings-in-virginia/

  • Randy Hudson
    July 8, 2019 at 9:42 am

    Vangie Williams, the Democratic candidate for VA district 1 U.S Representative in 2018, received a letter that told of a lynching in 1948 in Kilmarnock, VA. The writer’s mother had told the story of her cousin getting beheaded because he was trying to register voters in Kilmarnock.

    The campaign sent around a slightly redacted pdf copy of the letter. I know this is third-hand at best. I’d like to send you the pdf, but your comment widget doesn’t provide for attachments. Give me an address I can send it to, and I’ll forward it. I’m particularly interested to know if such a thing happened at such a late date in the Northern Neck.

    • Staff
      July 10, 2019 at 9:22 am

      Dear Randy, thank you for your comment. I am not aware of this case, but please send me any material you might have to defazigx@jmu.edu . Thanks! Gianluca

  • July 6, 2019 at 11:15 am

    I seem to remember that Virginia had its own counterpart to the Scottsboro Boys, but have not been able to locate information on this.

  • kay slaughter
    March 31, 2019 at 4:53 pm

    I’m trying to find information about an Edward Brown who lived in the Charlottesville VA area and was reportedly lynched around April-May 1918. He was the father of civil rights leader Drewary Brown for whom Drewary Brown West Main Street Bridge in Cville is named. I do not know if it happened in Cville area or out of town or out of state where he was working. i’d appreciate any help you may be able to provide. I’m not finding death certificate nor local news articles about it. Brown was working on job involving explosives when a white co-worker was killed. Brown reportedly blamed for not warning white man and thus held responsible for his death & lynched.
    see http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/afam/raceandplace/orals/dbrown.html

    • Staff
      March 31, 2019 at 5:02 pm

      Dear Kay, this is the first time I hear about this story, I’ll look into it. Thank you for bringing it to my attention, Gianluca

  • Emily J. Salmon
    January 21, 2019 at 11:43 am

    You don’t seem to have Joseph R. Holmes of Charlotte County on your list: https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Holmes_Joseph_R_ca_1838-May_3_1869
    He was shot to death ostensibly by his former owner’s son in the yard in front of the Charlotte County courthouse.

    • Staff
      January 21, 2019 at 1:01 pm

      Emily, thank you for sharing this information. The website currently documents lynchings occurred between 1877 and 1927: the lynching you mentioned has happened before then. At any rate, we are currently expanding the database to include lynchings that occurred before 1877 and after 1927. The lynching of Joseph Holmes is one of the cases we are currently working on. Thanks for your interest in this project! Gianluca

  • Lori Snyder Garrett
    September 1, 2018 at 7:43 am

    Do you know of any research uncovering the relationship between confederate monuments and lynchings? For example did the number of lynchings rise following the erection of a monument?

    • Gianluca
      September 1, 2018 at 3:37 pm

      Lori, I am not aware of studies directly linking the erection of Confederate monuments with lynchings. However, the historical record is pretty clear in showing that these monuments were a celebration of white supremacy and a reminder of the racial caste system in the US South. This article by Fitz Brundage provides an excellent overview of the link between Confederate monuments and their role in propping Jim Crow: https://tinyurl.com/yc6vmma8 . Hope this helps, Gianluca

  • Karen D Blackburn
    August 1, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Thank you so much for this! Nelson County wants to take our place in history and work with The Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL Thank you for your help with this!!

    • Gianluca
      August 1, 2018 at 9:42 am

      Karen, thank you for your interest in this project. I hope this will help Nelson county to work with The Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery to commemorate the victims of lynching. Please let me know if I can be of further help.

  • April 29, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Having recently read about the new Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL, I wondered about lynchings in Rockingham County, where I live. I found this website by Googling. Thank you for this painful, disturbing but critically necessary information. Only by acknowledging the terrible past can we resolve to create a better future.

    • John Braymer
      June 20, 2019 at 7:03 pm

      I believe I took a photo yesterday of this county’s monument at the Montgomery memorial. If you email me, I will send the photo. Each memorial has each’s victim’s name and date of lynching cut into the bar.N

  • April 7, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    The Northeast Neighborhood Association of Harrisonburg, VA would like to thank the filmmakers of “An Outrage” and Dr. Gianluca De Fazio of JMU for welcoming our participation in the screening and discussion on lynching in the American South at Madison Hall on 3/13/18. We were proud to announce that we will be working with Dr. De Fazio, local officials and community partners in properly memorializing Charlotte Harris, an African-American woman lynched in the Harrisonburg area in 1878.

  • April 4, 2018 at 9:32 am

    Upsettingly informative website. Well-designed and articulated. There is an artist, Vincent Valdez, who’s work is illuminating of the Mexican-American lynchings of the west and south west also around this time. Here is a link to his page: http://www.vincentvaldezart.com/work/the-strangest-fruit/1 This is a painting series specifically. Incredibly hyper-realistic with a similarly haunting personality as your work. Kind of a forgotten history, as lynching is typically associated with black-Americans.

    • Gianluca
      April 4, 2018 at 10:17 am

      Nicki, thank you for your comment and for sharing the link to Vincent Valdez’s website. Lynching in the US South is part of a larger history of collective violence against racial minorities, including the lynching of Mexican-Americans, especially near the US-Mexico border, and in California. This map (http://www.monroeworktoday.org/explore/map2/indexif.html) powerfully captures the history and geography of racial violence against nonwhites in the United States.

      • Gianluca
        April 4, 2018 at 10:21 am

        On this topic, I also highly recommend the academic book “Forgotten Dead. Mob Violence against Mexicans in the United States, 1848-1928” by William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb.

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