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Culpeper Times • November 22-28, 2018

Local News

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Remembrance ceremony focuses on community healing By Jeff Say Culpeper Times Staff Writer Allie Thompson died 100 years ago Nov. 25, but at a remembrance ceremony held last Sunday, his spirit lived on inspiring the future. Thompson was the last documented African American lynched in Culpeper County on Nov. 25, 1918 and he - along with fellow lynching victims William Thompson (no relation) and William Grayson - were remembered and honored during a Remembrance and Reflection ceremony held at Culpeper Baptist Church. The event, spearheaded by Zann Nelson and a committee looking to help the community heal, started 12 years ago after Nelson researched and help write a three-piece series about Allie Thompson along with Allison Brophy Champion for the Culpeper Star-Exponent. She always dreamed of finding a way to honor Allie Thompson’s memory, and on Sunday was able to accomplish that with several members of the Thompson family in attendance. The goal was to remember the past, acknowledge the wrongs of lynching and then find common ground to move on and heal as a community. With more than 100 in attendance, of

both African American and European descent, Nelson and organizers felt as though the healing process was started. The Rev. Ludwell Brown reminded those in attendance of a old adage that he said fit well on this day. “It is mindful we remember our history,” Brown said. “If you don’t remind yourself of your history, then history has a tendency to repeat itself.” Nelson spoke, thanking the family for attending and for those who turned out to remember Allie Thompson, William Thompson and William Grayson. “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the advice I’ve been receiving lately, to move on, to keep things quiet, don’t rock the boat, and I have a couple of thoughts to share,” Nelson said. “First, I think the boat is big enough to sustain a little rocking. Perhaps it will help us get a bit steadier on our feet.” Sandra Yates, President of the Culpeper NAACP #7058 stressed that the event was one to honor those who lost their lives so long ago. This is not a day of pointing fingers or blame, but one of remembrance and the beginning of healing and closure for the families, which


Kamille Gardner, a descendant of Charles "Allie" Thompson's family speaks during a Remembrance and Reflection Event honoring the memory of Allie Thompson, William Thompson and William Grayson, three men lynched in Culpeper County. they so deserve,” she said. Keynote speaker Margaret Russell, a professor at Santa Clara University specializing in civil rights and Constitutional Law and a founder of the Civil Rights and Restorative Rights Project, talked about her ties to Culpeper County and why it’s important to connect the past with the present. She said growing up, when anyone asked where her family was from she answered Philadelphia, be-

cause that was where she was raised. About 10 years ago, she began researching the rest of her family history - finding out she had ancestors from Culpeper County, which put her on a path to make contact with Nelson - who helped her trace her roots back to slaves in the county. “Which is very, very powerful,” Russell said. “I think as African Americans, we have such difficult ➤ See Remembrance, Page 7

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