A resident of Lynchburg, Virginia, has launched a petition to rename the town, arguing that its name carries “racist and horrifying connotations.”
But the founder of the town was actually an early supporter of emancipation in the U.S., and his link to the term “lynching” involves another history lesson.
What are the details?
Daisy Howard has launched a petition to the Lynchburg City Council, writing that “if black lives truly matter to the city, then such a word defining the hanging of people of color can and will be eliminated.”
Howard argues, “I understand it was named after a man named John Lynch, but why do we insist on explaining that when people react to its name poorly (understandably so)? Why do we insist on defending it when, maybe we can just admit that lynch really shouldn’t be in the name of well, anything?”
According to Chief Public History Officer Ted Delaney, John Lynch was actually a progressive Quaker who fought for the freedom of African Americans. Delaney told WSET-TV, “He believed in emancipating slaves. He had slaves but freed all of his. He’s supporting recolonization, which is sending slaves back to Africa. He did not believe in perpetuating the institution of slavery in this country.”
The historian also provided insight into the initial meaning of the term “lynching,” which was named after John Lynch’s brother, Charles.
‘Lynch’s Law’ was named after Col. Charles Lynch. In 1780, he brought his own type of justice to comrades still loyal to the British. As punishment, those who were insubordinate were tied to trees and lashed repeatedly.
The term originally had nothing to do with African Americans. As time progressed, however, lynchings were used as an extreme implementation of justice for people of color.
As of this writing, nearly 2,000 people have signed the petition to change the city of Lynchburg’s name. The Lynchburg City Council would have to vote to approve the initiative.