An event was held on Saturday, Dec. 18 to unveil a historical marker in Center Cross memorializing the only known lynching in Essex County, that of an African American man named Thomas Washington.
In 1896, Washington was accused of attempting to assault the daughter of a prominent white citizen, the roadside marker explains. A boy found his body handing from a tree about 1/8 of a mile from the marker. Originally, the body was buried near the tree but eventually he was given a proper a burial by relatives. Although the case attracted publicity across the state, no one was ever brought to justice, the sign also says.
Soil was collected at the site of the lynching and placed at the site of the historical marker. Gallon-sized jars of soil from the lynching site were also collected. One will be displayed at the Essex County Museum and Historical Society in Tappahannock and another jar of soil will be displayed at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Georgia.
Over 100 people participated in the dedication.
The marker was approved by Virginia Department of Resources and sponsored by Reginald Carter Jr. The Essex County branch of the NAACP, Indivisible Essex, The Group That Shall Remain Nameless, and the Middle Peninsula African American Genealogical and Historical Society also sponsored the dedication.
The soil collection is part of Equal Justice Initiative’s Community Remembrance Project, which is aiming to document approximately 4,400 lynchings of African Americans that occurred between 1877 and 1950.