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JMU Hosts Forum on Lynching History

Randi B. Hagi

A working group of Virginia’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission held a public forum at James Madison University in Harrisonburg Monday [Sept. 16] to discuss the “History of Lynching in Virginia.”  Monday night’s forum was the group’s first public meeting, and will be followed by similar events in Culpeper and Richmond.  WMRA’s Randi B. Hagi reports.

How do we, as Virginians, heal the wounds caused by the historical lynchings of African Americans? Over 100 local residents gathered in JMU’s Memorial Hall to grapple with that question at the History of Lynching event, which was led by working group members Jennifer McClellan and Gianluca De Fazio.

McClellan is the state senator for Virginia’s 9th district, which includes parts of Richmond. De Fazio, a professor at JMU, studies and catalogs Virginia’s history of racial terrorism.

Credit Randi B. Hagi
Gianluca De Fazio is an assistant professor of justice studies at James Madison University.

GIANLUCA DE FAZIO: We have a history that has been erased, a history that has been, really, forgotten. We have some kind of collective amnesia.

McClellan hoped that attendees would continue to educate themselves about lynchings, including that of Charlotte Harris – an African American woman who was murdered in 1878 in Harrisonburg.

SENATOR JENNIFER MCCLELLAN: … just knowing that these murders occurred, and knowing that it was part of this community, it impacted this community, and uplifting Charlotte Harris’s story, and them being motivated to learn more about her and other lynchings that occurred.