Charles City historical marker becomes first to commemorate lynching victim
Sometimes a tragic event in history can serve as a reminder of the continuous need to be educated about the origins of how far the human race has come and how far it needs to go. Such was the case Sunday afternoon in Charles City County.
A historic marker unveiling for Isaac Brandon, a man wrongfully lynched, took place on Apr. 7 near the location of where the former tree he hung from stood.
On Apr. 6, 1892, the 43-year old Brandon was accused of assaulting a white female. A mob of angry men sought out Brandon, locating him and lynching him to death. Brandon received neither due process of law nor a trial as the married man and father of eight was murdered without cause.
The marker serves as the first one in Virginia signifying a lynching and the painful history that still has ramifications today. As descendants of Brandon attended the meet, many reminders were spoken about during the ceremony.
“We pray for his [Brandon’s] family even though this crime was committed over 126 years ago,” said Charles City NAACP chairman the Rev. Ellsworth Tait. “The ramifications continue to reverberate through friends and loved ones as they have to suffer on a scale that is unimaginable.”
Tait continued, pointing to the evolution and shift of power as African-Americans hold high ranking positions in the county.
Dr. Colita Fairfax, who serves as the vice-chairman of the Board of Historic Resources, offered powerful words relating to the death of Brandon.
“Lynching is a violent form of torture,” Fairfax said. “This violent form of killing people has been the chief message of intimidating an entire race of people without legal representation, without a trial, without a lawyer, or without due process and without any regard to humanity.
“This is an important day as the Commonwealth of Virginia marks this day as the first marker of a victim of lynching, a premeditated form of torture used throughout post-reconstruction and segregation used to repress and intimidate,” Fairfax concluded.
Senator Jennifer McClellan apologized to the family on behalf of the hate crime. More than 4,000 lynchings took place in the United States between 1877 and 1950 according to the Lynching in Virginia Project that was inspired by the Equal Justice Initiative.
Brandon’s great-great-granddaughter Tish McDonald said that while the reality of bigotry in America remains, the family and community had to embrace what has happened in the past and move forward.
“Know your history because history has a way of repeating itself,” she said. “If you don’t know what your history is, you can repeat the same things again.
“We can make a change going forward because we do not accept this,” McDonald continued. “It never should have been accepted and it still happens today. It’s sad, but it’s still occurring.
“All it takes is a few to stand up and say no,” she added. “Just like the women and the me-too movement, it’s not acceptable. Diversity is a beautiful thing and it’s not just always about black and white. It’s about bringing people together who think differently to melt them together to come to a better understanding because at the core of it, we are all human and want the same things.”
Other descendants of Brandon’s family took photos around the marker that is adjacent to the Virginia Capital Trail near the courthouse complex in Charles City. The marker serves as a painful reminder that history needs to be told, no matter how difficult it may be for some to grasp.