Chatham County apologizes for role in 100th anniversary lynching
At the Chatham County Commissioners Council meeting last month, the council honored the legacy of Eugene Daniel, a black teenager who was killed by a white mob in Pittsboro.
The board of directors voted unanimously to issue a formal apology for the role of officials in the lynching of Daniel on the 100th anniversary of the tragic event.
Chatham County Commissioner Karen Howard told 97.9 The Hill that it was personally important to her that council passes this resolution.
“It touched me personally,” Howard said. “There was a silence on this story. family members did not know how he died.
Howard said she learned of Daniel’s story at a libation ceremony earlier this year. She said learning these details, even a century later, was heartbreaking.
Daniel was 16 when he was lynched on September 18, 1921. He was illegally taken from Chatham County Jail and lynched by mobs of county residents, including elected officials at the time.
Daniel was beaten and executed despite no corroborated evidence, no trial and an unfounded allegation. Chatham County officials at the time did not investigate the perpetrators of the attack.
“Even in death, Eugene Daniel was denied his basic rights,” Howard said.
There is now substantial evidence indicating the complicity of the Chatham County Sheriff, the prison warden, the coroner and some county commissioners in Daniel’s murder.
In the resolution honoring Daniel, the current Chatham County Board of Commissioners said officials at the time had failed to fulfill their oath. They issued a formal apology for the “heinous” role of county officials in Daniel’s death.
Howard said while the apology is overdue, it’s part of a math unfolding across the country.
“I want us to think about the level of terror that existed in the African American community,” Howard said. “It was a Sunday morning at dawn. The families who came to see this body probably went to church afterwards. They are the great-grandparents of the people who live here today.
Howard said if the county did not have difficult conversations about matters of race and historical inequality, the community would remain stuck in place.
Commissioner Jim Crawford said the resolution was a step in the right direction, but Chatham County still has a long way to go.
“This same room was used the day after the lynching to bring all the young African Americans together and talk to them,” Crawford said. “These rooms, this place, were drawn into the whole thing. We, as an institution, need to recognize that this has happened.
Crawford said he hopes the county can make progress towards recovery.
Council of Commissioners vice-chair Diana Hales said it was the start of reconciliation in Chatham County.
“It’s a way forward,” Hales said. “We were all, and we are still accomplices. It helps us to recognize it and start repairing.
Howard said she was proud of the progressive action Chatham is taking in its reconciliation efforts because it reflects the values of its citizens.
“It’s important that we bring up all of our stories,” Howard said. “If we only tell certain people’s stories, tell only the good and the pretty stories, we are not really honoring who we are. “
On the anniversary of the event, the Chatham County Community Remembrance Coalition hosted a soil collection ceremony to honor Daniel and recognize the surviving members of his family.
For the full resolution in honor of Eugene Daniel, click here.
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