At a socially distanced, masks-required outdoor ceremony at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow, July 11, at the Courthouse Justice Center in Pittsboro, the Community Remembrance Coalition Chatham will call for “truth, justice, and reconciliation” for lynching victims. 

As part of the Equal Justice Initiative’s nationwide effort, the coalition will share the story of the six documented lynching victims who were murdered in Chatham County between 1850 and 1950, none of whom ever received justice, or even recognition, Chatham Community NAACP president Mary Nettles says.

“It’s just telling the whole story of the county—what has happened in the past, so we can go forward,” Nettles says.  

The ceremony will feature speakers including Rev. Corey D. Little of Mitchell Chapel AME Zion Church, Pittsboro Mayor Jim Nass, and county commissioners Karen Howard and Diana Hales, as well as Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson and Chief Deputy Charles Gardner.

“The purpose of the event is to just remind us that the fundamental first step for resolving any issue is to determine what the truth of it is,” lifetime NAACP member Bob Pearson says. “And then acknowledging that truth and using that as a basis for broader understanding among all the people involved—in this case, the white community and the Black community—and then on that basis to try to move forward to a better state of race relations in the county.”

In 2018, Pearson suggested to the Chatham Community NAACP branch that they look into the EJI’s breakdown of lynchings by U.S. county, which identified the six in Chatham. Pearson looped in the Western Chatham branch. Joining with several other community organizations and individuals, they formed Community Remembrance Coalition Chatham.   

At the ceremony, the coalition will call for an objective accounting of race relations in Chatham County, Pearson says. 

“[The event is] designed to be nonpartisan and multi-party, multicultural, multiracial,” he says, “and so it’s really trying to build a broader appreciation of the challenges ahead of us and to show that all of us have a stake in this—white, Black, brown, whatever.”  

The victims whom the ceremony will recognize include 16-year-old Eugene Daniel, who was lynched near Moore’s Bridge in 1921; Henry Jones, who was lynched by the Devil’s Tramping Ground in 1899; and Lee Tyson, John Pattishall, Harriet Finch, and Jerry Finch, all of whom were lynched on the same day in 1885 near Pittsboro. 

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