NC marker memorializes lynching victims

NC marker memorializes lynching victims


SALISBURY, N.C. — Rowan County is the first in the state to add a historical marker memorializing lynching victims from the Jim Crow era.

 

What You Need To Know

Rowan County becomes the first in the state to have a marker memorializing lynching victims

The marker was donated by the Equal Justice Initiative

A local group called Actions in Faith and Justice worked to bring the marker to the city

 

The marker in downtown Salisbury is between Oak Grove-Freedman’s Cemetery, where African Americans both enslaved and free are buried, and the Rowan County Detention Center.

In 2017, a grassroots citizen group in Salisbury called Actions in Faith and Justice, spearheaded by Susan Lee and Rev. Olen V. Bruner, started working to bring the marker to the city.

The group focuses on creating justice and equity.

“That’s the same conversation a number of people have gotten into. They want to help, but they just don’t know how and what we have done with Actions in Faith and Justice, we’ve open doors so that they can communicate. They can talk,” Bruner said.

Bruner is a retired pastor who used to preach at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Salisbury.

“This [is] the result of action,” Bruner said.

In August, the Equal Justice Initiative donated the plaque to Salisbury as part of their Community Remembrance Project. It aims to memorialize documented victims of racial violence and start conversations about race and justice around the country.

“It’s the first in the state, but it’s the first of many,” Bruner said.

Two days of events surrounded the dedication of the marker two months ago.

One side of the marker memorializes six lynching victims in Rowan County, including Jack Dillingham, Nease Gillespie and his teenage son John Gillespie.

According to the plaque, in 1906 the three were accused of killing four members of a white family at their home in Unity Township. Dillingham and Jack and Nease Gillespie were abducted from the Rowan County Jail and later lynched by a white mob of more than 2,000 people.

“It makes me sad because there was no justice but at the same time, it causes me to understand. The struggle and the fight still continues,” Bruner said.

The other side of the marker gives a broader context about lynching in America. It also mentions the efforts of the Salisbury City Council to eliminate inequities with the adoption of a Resolution of Reconciliation in 2019.

Rev. Dr. Kendal Mobley who is part of the steering committee of Actions in Faith and Justice said it’s an important part of history for generations.

“It’s important to teach this fuller account of American history to our children, not because we want some people to feel guilty, but until we are aware of the inequities, until we are aware of the injustices, we can’t rectify them. We can’t make a society better unless we know where the fault lines are, and that’s the purpose of this kind of marker,” Mobley said.

Bruner said the knowledge can start a conversation and lead to change.

“By addressing it, we are now moving into the next stage of doing something to correct it. It’s a first step for an equitable exchange for Salisbury,” Bruner said.

The group plans to continue working on other efforts in the city to promote equity, including ensuring discipline in schools is fair and keeps kids in the classroom.



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