Historical marker honoring lynching victims stolen from Lithonia park

The marker, which stands just a few feet from the William A. Kelly Park sign, has been missing for the past week.

Credit: Caroline Silva

Credit: Caroline Silva

The marker, which stands just a few feet from the William A. Kelly Park sign, has been missing for the past week.

The son of Lithonia city council member Darold Honore Jr. strolls through William A. Kelly Park most mornings with their family dog.

During one of those walks last week, the 20-year-old noticed that a historical marker honoring three Black men who were lynched by mobs of white residents in the late 1800s was missing. Honore said his son considered that perhaps it was taken down to be cleaned, but decided to immediately report it missing to him.

“This is an odd crime. We have the normal stuff, but this is kind of weird,” Honore told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the park off Main and Bond streets Wednesday.

In 2021, the bronze marker was installed by the city and the DeKalb County chapter of the NAACP as part of a project to memorialize lynchings of Black men that took place throughout the county. One side of the plaque is titled, “Lynching in America,” while the other says, “Mob Violence in Lithonia.”

The NAACP announced Tuesday that the marker was stolen and that the Lithonia Police Department has been investigating the theft for the past week.

Police Chief Donald Dejarnette said Wednesday that they do not have video of the theft but are working to obtain camera footage from a nearby location. The department is also working through city cameras to try to catch those involved. Officials believe it was stolen sometime last week, but are working to determine the exact date of the crime.

A motive has not been determined, but Dejarnette said the suspects may have stolen the plaque for scrap metal.

One side of the plaque is titled, “Lynching in America,” while the other says, “Mob Violence in Lithonia.”

Credit: Albert Fields / NAACP DeKalb

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Credit: Albert Fields / NAACP DeKalb

Troy Vincent, owner of The Engraving House and Vice President of the NAACP’s DeKalb branch, was responsible for installing the sign at the park in 2021. He said the theft would have required the suspects to bring their own tools since the marker is attached to the pole by several bolts.

The bronze sign weighs about 200 pounds, making it difficult for only one person to move it, Vincent said. It’s suspected that at least two people were involved and that they loaded the marker onto a vehicle sometime overnight, Dejarnette said.

NAACP branch President Edwina Clanton confirmed the sign will be replaced. She added that no other DeKalb NAACP Remembrance Project markers have been stolen or damaged.

“We may have to raise money to replace it. ... (but) something’s going to be back up there before the end of the year,” said D.E. Smith, the chair of the Remembrance Project.

Smith said the theft feels like someone is attempting to erase Lithonia’s history — a part of the past she admitted she was unaware of until she began researching lynchings in DeKalb.

DeKalb County is the first in Metro Atlanta to officially partner with the Equal Justice Initiative in recognizing the lynchings that took place in the county. The NAACP is leading an effort to organize a week of events in September that are book-ended by the unveiling of two lynching markers, an EJI lynching monument is also in the works. Video by RYON HORNE and TIA MITCHELL

The marker at Kelly Park documents the story of three Black men who were lynched in the late 1800s, and states that, “Despite a functioning legal system in DeKalb County, mob participants were not held accountable for these lynchings.”

On July 27, 1887, Reuben Hudson was hanged after being accused — without a trial or evidence — of assaulting a white woman in Redan, an area just northwest of Lithonia, according to the marker. The plaque also mentions that two unidentified Black men were hanged five years later after a young white girl reported an assault.

“This is our history. This is Lithonia’s history,” Smith said. “The mayor will tell you, she lived here all her life. I lived here all my life. We never heard anything about this, and this is the type of history they’re not teaching in school and not passing down. So it was extremely important to get our history out there.”

Anyone with information on the theft is asked to contact Lithonia police at 770-482-8947.