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Marker that memorializes lynching victims in DeKalb County stolen, NAACP says

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Marker that memorializes lynching victims in DeKalb County stolen, NAACP says

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By Atlanta News First staff

ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) — A historical marker that memorializes Black victims of lynchings in DeKalb County has been stolen, the county chapter of the NAACP said Tuesday.

The theft of the marker in Lithonia was reported to the DeKalb County NAACP Tuesday morning, according to a spokesperson with the organization. The organization said Tuesday the theft happened sometime within the last week.

“The removal of this marker is not just an act of theft but an attempt to erase our collective memory and deny the painful truths of our past. Such actions only underscore the importance of our history,” Edwina Clanton, branch president, said.

The marker, known as the Remembrance Project lynching marker, was unveiled in Kelly Park near City Hall in 2021 by the City of Lithonia, the DeKalb County NAACP and the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative to raise awareness of the lynchings of Black victims by white mobs from Lithonia after the Reconstruction era ended.

“After Reconstruction was abandoned in 1877, white mobs from Lithonia terrorized the Black community through lynchings that denied Black people their constitutional rights and equal protection under the law,” the marker reads.

The marker tells the stories of Reuben Hudson, a Black man who was lynched in Redan in 1877, and two unidentified Black men who were lynched five years later in DeKalb County.

According to the marker, on July 26, 1887, “a white woman in Redan reported being assaulted by a ‘short and heavy set, and very black’ man.” Hudson was taking a train that day to his home in Redan after work when the conductor had him arrested in Covington, presuming he fit the woman’s description.

The next morning, as police officers were escorting Hudson back to Redan by train, “an angry mob of white men boarded at Lithonia, intent on lynching him.”

The officers handed Hudson over to the mob in Redan without resistance, though they were legally required to protect him, according to the marker.

“Despite his pleas of innocence, the mob dragged and tortured Mr. Hudson before hanging him to a tree,” the marker reads.

Five years later, on April 2, 1892, a white mob from Lithonia chased two unidentified Black men after a young white girl reported an assault.

“When the mob returned to Lithonia without the men, it was reported that ‘it was generally understood that they were lynched,’” the marker reads. “Despite a functioning legal system in DeKalb County, mob participants were not held accountable for these lynchings.”

The reported theft of the marker comes during the last few days of Black History Month.

The NAACP said the Lithonia Police Department is investigating the theft.

“This is unbelievable and shocking, especially during Black History Month,” Dr. E. Smith, chairperson for the Remembrance Project. “We worked so hard to get this plaque and it just hurts my heart to see it taken. It is like these people have been violated twice.”

Decaturish media partner Atlanta News First provided this story