Ohio County partners with EJI to commemorate lynching victim

know about Ohio County partners with EJI to commemorate lynching victim

Ohioans in Coshocton County celebrated June 16 of this year by coming together to confront their history of racial injustice.

In partnership with the EJI Community Remembrance Project, community members and local leaders dedicated a historical marker at the Coshocton County Courthouse that remembers Henry Howard, who was lynched in the courthouse square on March 19. June 1885 by a crowd of about 1,000 people.

The June 18 dedication began with remarks from Javanna Ramsey and Lucy Malenke, who founded Coshoctonians for Peace and Equality, a grassroots racial justice coalition that has been working since 2020 to install the historic landmark as part of the Coshoctonians for Peace and Equality Community Memory Project. EJI.

In preparation for the scoreboard, Ms. Malenke interviewed Lula Williams, a 100-year-old Coshocton County resident who told Ms. Malenke that Henry Howard’s toe was on display at CD Brooke’s jewelry store on Main Street well into the 20th century.

“All of us who live in this place have to deal with this legacy: 136 years ago, the white residents of this town abandoned the justice system and lynched a black man who never got a fair trial, whose alibi was never investigated. , whose body was desecrated,” said Ms. Malenke said in the dedication.

Ms. Ramsey spoke to attendees about how telling the truth about our history can lead to positive change in our communities.

“This historical marker, telling the story of Henry Howard, is an opportunity to acknowledge the truth of our past, the truth that 1,000 people showed up to see him tortured and murdered: public officials, pastors, respected businessmen, parents,” the statement said. Mrs. Ramsey said. “This story needs to be taken into account if people of color are ever to feel truly safe and fully welcome in this place.”

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The event included a performance by the Ridgewood High School choir and a presentation on the history of Juneteenth by coalition member and children’s book author Brittany Mbaye and her children.

Eleventh-grader Za’nyah Muhammad read part of her essay, “Discrimination Against Black Women in Health Care,” which won CPE’s racial justice essay contest this spring.

Black community members shared reflections on the meaning of Juneteenth during an open mic portion of the event, and Coshocton Mayor Mark Mills spoke about the importance of talking about community history and how events focused on telling truth can bring people together.

The lynching of Henry Howard

On the night of Friday, June 19, 1885, a mob of at least 1,000 whites lynched Henry Howard, a black man who had come to Coshocton the day before to seek work in the mines.

On Thursday night, reports emerged in Coshocton that two young white women had been assaulted by a black man about a mile east of West Lafayette. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Howard was passing a saloon near Coshocton when a white man, who deemed him a “suspicious-looking colored man,” seized him and turned him over to the sheriff, who booked him without further investigation.

During this era, black people were burdened with a presumption of guilt that often focused suspicion on black communities after a crime was discovered, regardless of whether any evidence supported that suspicion. Belief in white supremacy was a national phenomenon, and racial terror lynchings committed outside the South in states like Ohio exhibited many of the same characteristics as Southern lynchings, especially after allegations of crimes such as sexual assault. The assumption that black men were violent, sexually aggressive, and always on the lookout for white women was widespread. The accusations brought against black men were rarely the subject of serious scrutiny.

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Mr. Howard was jailed overnight when a mob threatening to lynch him gathered around the jail. Mr. Howard “insisted that he could prove an alibi and said that yesterday he was mining coal in a mine near the city”, but his alibi was never investigated.

On Friday afternoon, “crowds poured into the city from all directions” and, as reported by the Coshocton Age, the “excited crowd [that] They surrounded the jail all day Friday. . . he didn’t care about the law.” However, the sheriff was unable to protect Mr. Howard; the Marion Star reported that the crowd convinced him to walk out of jail “defenseless.” Around 11 p.m., a mob of nearly 200 armed and hooded men marched down Chestnut Street and entered the jail “without the slightest show of resistance from the Sheriff.”

The crowd quickly grabbed Mr. Howard and “were greeted with deafening cheers by the crowd, numbering some 1,000.” They placed a rope around Mr. Howard’s neck and dragged him across the street to the courthouse square, where they proceeded to hang him from a large elm tree as the crowd cheered and applauded.

The Coshocton Age reported that Mr. Howard’s body “was left hanging in the Public Square of Coshocton, Ohio, for the edification of the children of the town.” Lynching mobs often amplified the terror of lynchings by prominently displaying the bodies of the victims for hours or even days.

Although press reports identified several prominent members of the community among the lynch mob, no one was ever held responsible for the lynching of Mr. Howard. Instead, those who murdered Mr. Howard were celebrated as defenders of white womanhood. As the Coshocton era said, “The safety of wives, mothers and daughters is more important than a myriad of lives like Howard’s.”

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White residents sometimes used lynchings with public spectacles to force black residents to flee the community, leaving behind their land, houses, and other property. In Coshocton, about a week after Mr. Howard’s lynching, a black barber received an anonymous letter threatening to lynch any black person who did not leave town within 30 days and promising to lynch any black man caught with a woman. white. The letter was signed “Many Citizens.”

Henry Howard is one of at least 15 documented victims of racial terror lynchings in Ohio between 1877 and 1950, and the only documented victim in Coshocton County.