ALEXANDRIA, VA–On August 6-9, 2021, Alexandria City Hall and Carlyle House and the George Washington Masonic Memorial were illuminated in purple, the color of mourning, in honor of the anniversary of the lynching of Benjamin Thomas.
Benjamin Thomas, a 16-year-old African American teenager, was lynched in Alexandria on August 8, 1899. According to Alexandria.gov, The City of Alexandria is “committed to the accurate dissemination of its history.” Thus, the City honors the memory of Benjamin Thomas with a wreath laying and historical marker to “fight injustice and keep the memory of its lynching victims alive.”
Considered a community reflection, the three-day memorial event witnessed several Alexandria notables pay their respects. Mayor Justin Wilson, Alexandria Poet Laureate KaNikki Jakarta, acting Police Chief Don Hayes, Sheriff’s Captain Sean Casey, and many others spoke at the wreath laying on August 8 at Market Square and the lynching site on the corner of King and S. Fairfax streets.
Dozens of Alexandria residents gathered to hear their powerful words and witness history anew, as an historic marker was installed forever cementing that fateful night in the literal foundation of Alexandria’s history.
The marker’s caption details how in 1899, white rioters attacked the city jail on N. St. Asaph St., seizing and dragging Thomas for a half-mile on the cobblestone street, all while pummeling him with bricks, iron, and stone. Allegedly, Thomas cried out for his mother in the horror of the night, but he was ultimately hanged just outside of City Hall and the Police Station.
You can read the full story of Thomas’s lynching at Alexandria.gov or on the historic marker now at the corner of King and S. Fairfax streets.
122 years ago, Benjamin Thomas was brutally murdered in the streets of Alexandria. 122 years ago, none of the men responsible for his death were held accountable for their actions. Two day ago, the citizens of Alexandria came together to ensure this piece of history will live on forever, so that violence of this kind might never happen again in our storied and beloved city.