City of Alexandria Honors the Life of Benjamin Thomas on Anniversary of 1899 Lynching

Page archived as of August 21, 2020

City of Alexandria Honors the Life of Benjamin Thomas on Anniversary of 1899 Lynching

­­For Immediate Release: August 7, 2020

The City of Alexandria invites the community to join in a virtual remembrance of Benjamin Thomas, who was killed by a mob of 2,000 residents who stormed the city jail on August 8, 1899. Visit the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project website and the virtual “In Memoriam” page to learn more about the history of the lynching, compiled by the project’s research committee. The page also includes remarks from Mayor Justin Wilson and Sheriff Dana Lawhorne; an 1899 poem, “Take Him Out!” by Reverend A. A. Lott, published in “The Colored American” newspaper; and other community reflections on this lynching.

Alexandria residents and businesses are asked to display white, blue and green ribbons or flowers, or wear white ribbons, in a community show of solidarity that acknowledges the terrible impact of racial terror hate crimes on Black and Indigenious people, and other people of color. 

Thomas’ death was one of two documented racial terror lynchings in Alexandria, out of 11 that occurred in Northern Virginia, and among the 100 documented racial terror lynchings that occurred in the Commonwealth between 1882 and 1968. 

The nonprofit Equal Justice Institute’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, includes more than 800 steel pillar monuments, one for each city or county in the United States where a racial terror lynching took place. The names of the lynching victims are engraved on the pillars. A field of identical monuments is in a park adjacent to the memorial. The EJI Community Remembrance Project invites cities and counties across the country to claim and install their monuments in the areas they represent. EJI also encourages each participating community to place a historical marker and collect soil from the site of each lynching, to allow communities to gain perspective and experience that is crucial to managing the monument retrieval process. One of the main goals of the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project is to bring the pillar with the names of Alexandria’s two documented racial terror lynching victims -- Joseph McCoy and Benjamin Thomas -- from Alabama to Alexandria for placement in a prominent location. 

Visit alexandriava.gov/BlackHistory for more information about the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project, future programming, the history of lynching in Alexandria, and frequently asked questions.

For media inquiries only, contact Andrea Blackford, Senior Communications Officer, at andrea.blackford@alexandriava.gov or 703.746.3959.

# # #

This news release is available at alexandriava.gov/117149.

Top