Can a family honor their slain relative in peace?
The answer is no for the family members of a lynched South Carolina man who were deemed “troublemakers” for holding a remembrance ceremony to honor him.
Doria Johnson, the great-great granddaughter of a successful Black man named Anthony Crawford, said she began receiving a number of “disturbing” phone calls from community members who were opposed to the ceremony honoring Crawford.
“I have gotten some phone calls … about starting trouble and demonstrations, and accusing us of being violent before we even get into town,” Johnson told the Index-Journal. “One call is too many. Why would you call me up and say you don’t want troublemakers when I’m coming there because of the troublemakers in your neighborhood?”
“It’s just that the presence of Black people is always considered problematic, and that’s troubling to me,” she added.
According to the publication, Crawford was an accomplished Black man in Abbeville, S.C., who owned 427 acres of land and helped establish a school, a church and farms for Black people in the small city. On Oct. 21, 1916, an angry white mob dragged the Black man through the streets by a noose for supposedly cursing at a white businessman with whom he was trying to bargain.
Crawford was stabbed, beaten, hanged and pelted with over 200 bullets, according to the commemorative plaque unanimously approved by the Abbeville City Council last month. No one was ever charged in the South Carolina man’s death.
“He was a strong Black man who through hard work was becoming quite rich and I think that bothered a lot of people,” Johnson said. “He was killed because he was too successful. That is unconscionable in America.”
The remembrance ceremony will take place outside the Abbeville Courthouse on Saturday, during which the plaque honoring Crawford will be unveiled, the Index-Journal reports. The commemorative marker was sponsored in part by the Equal Justice Initiative.
In addition to the ceremony, a freedom school will bet set up on the city square — mimicking those that were utilized during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement to educate and empower African-Americans.
“We want to counteract the Confederate symbols that are there and invoke Black history,” Johnson said. “There are no Black public history markers there, so we have history teachers, activists and some of our family members who are going to teach classes every hour.”
“Abbeville was a slave society, so to have all those Confederate symbols … and there’s no physical markers, that says something,” she added.
Johnson told the Index-Journal that her great-great grandfather’s family, history, business practices and history of Black farmers will all be topics of discussion at the freedom school.
“I am more than thrilled to see Mr. Crawford being honored in this way,” Abbeville Mayor Sarah Sherwood said of the upcoming remembrance ceremony. “I think it’s about darn time.”