It was 1898, and John Henry James was on a train headed toward certain death. The Black ice cream vendor had been falsely accused of raping a white woman, arrested and taken to a neighboring town to avoid a lynch mob. But the next morning, authorities put him on a train back to Charlottesville, where he was to be indicted at the Albermarle County Courthouse. He never made it; an angry crowd pulled him from the train outside of town and lynched him.
Within a few years, a Confederate monument nicknamed “Johnny Reb” went up at that same courthouse, along with some old Confederate cannons. Then came a statue of Stonewall Jackson next door, and two blocks away, a monument to Robert E. Lee.
The fact that James’ lynching and the erection of the memorials took place in the same era and the same area is not a coincidence, according to a report from the University of Virginia published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It found that in formerly Confederate states, counties with more Confederate memorials also had more lynchings.
This “provides compelling evidence that these symbols are associated with hate” and racism, and not more innocuous things like “heritage” or “Southern pride,” the study’s authors concluded.
The study was led by social psychology researcher Kyshia Henderson, along with data scientist Samuel Powers and professors Sophie Trawalter, Michele Claibourn and Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi at U.Va.’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. [Continue reading…]