DeKalb NAACP finishes project honoring lynching victims

05/06/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia —Leland E. Scott Jr., a great nephew of Porter Turner, speaks after a historical marker about Porter Turner was erected at the intersection of Ponce De Leon Ave NE and Oakdale Road NE in Atlanta’s Druid Hills community, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Porter Turner was lynched near the area in August 1945. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
05/06/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia —Leland E. Scott Jr., a great nephew of Porter Turner, speaks after a historical marker about Porter Turner was erected at the intersection of Ponce De Leon Ave NE and Oakdale Road NE in Atlanta’s Druid Hills community, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Porter Turner was lynched near the area in August 1945. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@

The following story has been rewritten to correct errors of fact regarding markers placed by the DeKalb County NAACP and misattributed quotes.

The DeKalb County NAACP has capped off a three-year effort to memorialize and honor lynching victims whose deaths took place in the county.

The organization’s Remembrance Project erected markers throughout the county to document the deaths of four Black men: Three lynchings that took place more than a century ago, and one dating to the mid-1940s.

The DeKalb NAACP held a ceremony Thursday night to wrap up the remembrance portion of the project, mourn the victims and preach the importance of remembering what took place in the county less than a century ago.

“They were fathers, brothers, husbands, sons, workers. They were American. They were human beings,” Rev. Trent Frank said during a Sept. 30 ceremony at Rainbow Park Baptist Church. “This is an effort to reaffirm their humanity, their dignity, their significance.”

A coalition of DeKalb NAACP members, elected officials and community members helped place markers in Lithonia and North Druid Hills to honor the four lynching victims. D.E. Smith, the chairperson for the Remembrance Coalition, said its goal is to reconcile the atrocities that took place in DeKalb.

Lithonia’s plaque details the deaths of Reuben Hudson and two unidentified Black men, who were tortured and lynched by white mobs during the late 1800s. The North Druid Hills marker documents the death of Porter Turner, who was found stabbed to death in 1945. The next year, members of the Ku Klux Klan boasted about killing Turner, but no one was ever arrested in connection with the homicide.

A third marker was placed in Decatur Square outside the historic courthouse in May 2020 to represent DeKalb’s desire to reckon with its history of racial terror.

The following month, a DeKalb judge would order the removal of a Confederate obelisk that had stood for more than a century in the city’s square.

ExploreDeKalb moves to dismiss lawsuit over Confederate monument flap

“We southerners, Black and white, must be cognizant of our unique vulnerability to racially divisive appeals wrapped in the veneer of history and heritage,” DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond said during the ceremony. “Removing the Lost Cause obelisk from the old courthouse and today’s dedication are steps in the right direction.”

Albert Fields, the NAACP DeKalb chairman over communications and publicity, said during the ceremony that the markers serve as a reminder that Black men were often ignored by the judicial system.

“We placed a marker there at the courthouse to remind everybody as they walk through that door that justice (was) denied for these four victims that we know of and for all the victims unknown,” Fields said.

He also tied those events to today, mentioning how Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old Black man, was chased, shot and killed by three white men last year in Glynn County. A murder trial for the three suspects is scheduled to begin Oct. 18.

ExploreComplete Coverage: Ahmaud Arbery shooting

“Our whole theme was a journey from remembrance to reconciliation,” Smith told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Reconciliation is what we’re now working on. We have a subcommittee working on plans for a series of reconciliation seminars.”

The ceremony, which included a candle lighting for the four lynching victims, was capped off with a tree planting. DeKalb NAACP President Teresa Hardy said the coalition is also working with the Equal Justice Initiative of Montgomery, Ala., to move an engraved column memorializing DeKalb’s lynching victims from Montgomery to outside the DeKalb Courthouse.

“The ultimate goal is not to be silent about the true history of America and Black people,” she said.

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A stone marker at The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama recognizes several recorded lynchings that took place in DeKalb County. TIA MITCHELL / TIA.MITCHELL@AJC.COM

A stone marker at The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama recognizes several recorded lynchings that took place in DeKalb County. TIA MITCHELL / TIA.MITCHELL@AJC.COM
Caption
A stone marker at The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama recognizes several recorded lynchings that took place in DeKalb County. TIA MITCHELL / TIA.MITCHELL@AJC.COM

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