EJI to Dedicate Historical Marker to Black Civic Leader Lynched in 1916


Portrait of Anthony Crawford, circa 1910.

Today, 100 years after Anthony Crawford was lynched in Abbeville, South Carolina, his family is joining together with EJI, community members, and Black faith leaders to honor his memory.

Mr. Crawford was a prominent Black farmer who owned 427 acres of land in Abbeville County, adjacent to his brothers’ properties. He was assaulted, arrested, and placed in jail after a disagreement with a white store owner over the price of cottonseed that Mr. Crawford brought to the market on October 21, 1916.

Mr. Crawford was released on $15 bail, but was later abducted by a mob of at least 200 white men and then lynched at a nearby fairground. A South Carolina newspaper reported a headline the next day: “Negro Strung Up and Shot to Pieces.” Two days later the family was advised to leave Abbeville, “for the sake of peace and the best interest of the county.”

Today, Mr. Crawford’s great-great-granddaughter Doria Johnson is back in Abbeville for a two-day commemoration, which will include a church service of remembrance, collecting of soil from the lynching site, the placing of a marker, and a teach-in at an outdoor Freedom School about the history of racial injustice and its legacy.

“My family was devastated in 1916, our land was stolen, and we were ordered out of town by hundreds of our white neighbors,” Ms. Johnson said. “We scattered, starting all over again with few resources, after SC Governor Manning declared he could not protect us. We continue to suffer, and are honored the Equal Justice Initiative donated this marker to help correct the visible record in the center of Abbeville.”

The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, an interdenominational social justice network of Black faith leaders, is bringing representatives of seminaries, church councils, and Presbyterian and Lutheran denominations to participate in the commemoration in Abbeville.

The Rev. Dale Irvin, president of New York Theological Seminary, is among those making the pilgrimage. “We have never had an honest conversation about race,” Irvin said. “We’ve never been able to talk clearly about the role that religion plays in racism in America and organizations like the Klan and the way in which religion played into white supremacy.”

The Freedom School Teach-In is today from 7 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at Jefferson Davis Park in Abbeville. It will be followed by a soil collection and consecration at the site of the lynching at 4:30 p.m. at 100 Court Square.

Bryan Stevenson and EJI staff will officiate the marker unveiling ceremony tomorrow at 11 a.m. at 100 Court Square.  A worship service will follow the unveiling ceremony, beginning at 12:30 p.m. at Cypress Chapel AME Church, 140 Cypress Chapel Road, in Abbeville.

This is the third historical marker that EJI has placed at the site of a lynching as part of its Community Remembrance Project, a campaign to recognize the victims of lynching by collecting soil from lynching sites and creating a memorial that acknowledges the horrors of racial injustice in America.

In December, EJI unveiled a marker in Brighton, Alabama, to commemorate the lynching of William Miller, and this summer, EJI dedicated a marker to commemorate the lynchings of seven victims in Lowndes County, Alabama. EJI has documented more than 4000 racial terror lynchings in 12 Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950.

EJI believes we cannot heal the deep wounds inflicted during the era of racial terrorism until we tell the truth about it. “The geographic, political, economic, and social consequences of decades of terror lynchings can still be seen in many communities today and the damage created by lynching needs to be confronted and discussed,” said EJI Director Bryan Stevenson. “Only then can we meaningfully address the contemporary problems that are lynching’s legacy.”