In Memoriam 2020: Benjamin Thomas August 8, 1899
In Memoriam: Benjamin Thomas August 8, 1899
The City of Alexandria is committed to the accurate dissemination of its history. The murder of Benjamin Thomas is recognized as a terrible chapter in Alexandria’s past. To fight injustice and to keep the memory of Alexandria’s lynching victims alive, you are invited to participate in the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project.
As part of this community reflection, please share your thoughts, artwork, or creative writing after viewing the information on this In Memoriam page. Email your work to HistoricAlexandria@alexandriava.gov. Selections will be posted below in the digital guestbook.
A Mental Health Note
Simone Jacobs and Arnecia Moody are licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) who practice within the Washington DC Metro area. They have advised and provided support to the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project since its launch in 2019. Their joint statement provides assistance with racial trauma and dealing with difficult history. Ms. Jacobs and Ms. Moody stress not feeling alone as you and your family navigate through these challenging times. Read their statement.
Wreath sponsored by Del Ray Citizens Association, created by Helen Olivia.
Justin Wilson, Mayor of Alexandria, and Dana Lawhorne, Sheriff, remember the tragic lynching of Benjamin Thomas, a 16-year-old Alexandria resident, which took place on August 8, 1899. They place a wreath on the corner where the lynching took place and say the names of the 15 African American men who bravely and courageously stood up to try and defend Benjamin Thomas, risking their own safety and their own freedom. The Mayor and Sheriff are successors to two individuals, the Mayor of the City and the City Sergeant, who played unfortunate roles in the history of this tragic event.
The Lynching of Benjamin Thomas: A Narrative
Around midnight on August 8,1899, a 16-year-old African American teenager named Benjamin Thomas was lynched in Alexandria, Virginia. A white terror mob comprised of Alexandria citizens attacked the city jail on St. Asaph Street, and Benjamin Thomas was dragged half a mile to the southwest corner of King and Fairfax streets, opposite Market Square. The full account of this hate crime was methodically researched by the 13-member Research Committee of the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project.
Location of the Events of August 8, 1899
Leadbeater Corner, site of the lynching
“It is a dismantled post at the southwest corner of King and Fairfax Streets... The lamp was removed and the iron post permitted to stand when the electric lighting system was installed several years ago. On this post is a United States letter box.” Times (Washington, D.C.), August 10, 1899, page 3. (Courtesy Alexandria Library Local History/Special Collections)
Old Alexandria Jail
Not dated but likely very early 20th century. This is the view from North St Asaph at Princess looking northeast. The façade of the jail and the jail wall remain. (Courtesy, Alexandria Library Local History/Special Collections)