Charlotte Harris was in the custody of local law enforcement in Rockingham County on March 6, 1878, when a mob seized her and hung her from a tree – the only documented lynching of an African-American woman in Virginia’s history. The next month, a grand jury in Harrisonburg ended its investigation of the murder without returning any indictments. Judge Charles T. O’Ferrall, who oversaw that investigation, went on to become governor in the 1890s.
Stories of black excellence and the description of a community that persevered over and over against the injustices of racism are what emerged from the Arc Of Citizenship, a two day event this weekend. The Saturday and Sunday tours and talks were an attempt to reveal truths buried by long-held false historical narratives and forge a stronger understanding of the history of how race relations has affected the Valley.
Council members offered support at Tuesday’s meeting to a civic project memorializing Charlotte Harris, a victim of a public lynching in Harrisonburg 141 years ago.