On Saturday, March 18, EJI and Troup Together, a group of community residents who have been working to research and commemorate the county's history of racial terror lynching, will unveil a historical marker memorializing the African American victims of racial terror lynchings in Troup County, Georgia. At 1:00 p.m. EST, local leaders and residents will join EJI staff in unveiling the marker at Warren Temple United Methodist Church in LaGrange, Georgia.
On the night of September 7, 1940, a band of armed men took Austin Callaway from the LaGrange jail, shot him repeatedly, and left him to die on a rural road. Lynchings of African Americans had long occurred with alarming frequency across the United States, including Troup County. With no meaningful response from white officials, the African American community convened at Warren Temple and organized the first chapter of the NAACP in LaGrange.
In January 2017, as the result of community activism and dialogue, the Chief of Police, Mayor and city leaders formally apologized for the LaGrange Police Department's role in the lynching of Austin Callaway. Until that time, there had been no acknowledgment of the crime, and no one was ever held accountable.
Following Saturday's remembrance service and historic marker unveiling, community members will gather for a sunrise service at 7:00 am on Sunday, March 19, at the Southview Cemetery, where they will commemorate Georgia's lynching victims.
Lynching in America
Thousands of black people were the victims of lynching and racial violence in the United States between 1877 and 1950. The lynching of African Americans during this era was a form of racial terrorism intended to intimidate black people and enforce racial hierarchy and segregation.
Lynching was most prevalent in the South. After the Civil War, violent resistance to equal rights for African Americans and an ideology of white supremacy led to violent abuse of racial minorities and decades of political, social, and economic exploitation.
Lynching became the most public and notorious form of terror and subordination. White mobs were usually permitted to engage in racial terror and brutal violence with impunity. Many black people were pulled out of jails or given over to mobs by law enforcement officials who were legally required to protect them. Terror lynchings often included burning and mutilation, sometimes in front of crowds numbering in the thousands.
In response to this racial terror and violence, millions of black people fled the South and could never return, which deepened the anguish and pain of lynching. Many of the names of lynching victims were not recorded and will never be known, but EJI has documented nearly 600 lynchings in Georgia alone.
EJI's Community Remembrance Project
EJI erects historical markers at lynching sites as part of its Community Remembrance Project, a campaign to recognize the victims of lynching that includes collecting soil from lynching sites and creating a memorial that acknowledges the horrors of racial injustice in America. EJI believes that by reckoning with the truth of the racial violence that has shaped our communities, community members can begin a necessary conversation that advances healing and reconciliation.