NAACP, Community Remembrance Coalition to honor county’s other lynching victims

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PITTSBORO — Both chapters of the Chatham County NAACP, along with the Community Remembrance Coalition-Chatham, will host a ceremony next week to honor the memory of five residents who were lynched in Chatham County more than 100 years ago.

The service on May 14 at the Chatham County Agricultural and Industrial Fairgrounds will honor Harriet Finch, Jerry Finch, Lee Tyson and John Pattishall, each of whom were lynched in 1885. Henry Jones, who was lynched in 1889, will also be honored in the services.

Rep. David Price (D-Dist. 4), Sheriff Mike Roberson and Karen Howard, the chairperson of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, will speak at the event and host a libation ceremony.

Mary Nettles, the president of the CRC-C and the East Chatham Branch of the NAACP, will also host a soil collection ceremony to honor the memories of those lynched. She said the event was important because the community cannot live in denial of its dark past.

“It is very important to learn the history of the challenges and triumphs of the Black community in Chatham County,” Nettles said. “We hope for a better relationship in Chatham County among Black, white, and brown citizens.”

Next week’s ceremony follows an all-day event held last Sept. 18 that memorialized the 100th anniversary of Chatham County’s last lynching victim, Eugene Daniel. On that day, descendants of the children of Eugene’s parents — John and Ida Daniel — and others gathered around Eugene’s gravesite to reflect on his brief life and tragic killing; additional activities were held afterward at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center.

Nettles and Eugene’s great-niece, Cheryl Taylor, filled two large glass jars with soil, which had been removed from the site of Eugene’s lynching. One was presented to representatives of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons in Montgomery, Alabama. The soil was put on permanent display as part of the EJI’s Community Soil Collection Project in the its Legacy Museum and Memorial in Montgomery.

The soil collection ceremony next week will follow a similar process.

According to Nettles, the Remembrance Coalition became aware of the other lynchings when a community member shared the history with the NAACP in 2017. Ceremonies like those help move the community toward reconciliation, she said.

“Avoiding honest conversation about this history will undermine our ability to build a strong county where racial justice can be achieved,” Nettles said. “Knowledge is power and hopefully full knowledge will foster a carry cohesive community.”

The fairgrounds are located at 191 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Rd. For more details about the ceremony visit CRC-C.org.

Ben Rappaport can be reached at brappaport@chathamnr.com or @b_rappaport.

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