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Note to Readers: Charles Allie Thompson was murdered at the hands of a lynch mob in Culpeper County, Virginia on Nov. 25, 1918. In 2005 I conducted months of research on the incident, Allie’s family and the family of his accuser resulting in a three-part series co-authored by myself and Allison Brophy Champion and published in January 2006. I have continued the research and for thirteen and a half years have sought some mechanism for restorative justice for Allie, his family, the family of the accuser and the Culpeper community. Today we open the door to acknowledgement, restorative justice and a path to reconciliation.
They say when young men and women perish at a youthful age, they never get older. That would make you a handsome (I saw pictures of you and your family) young man of eighteen full of promise and a bright future. Let me say right now, up front and out loud, I am so very sorry that your life was stolen. No, I was not there, nor were any of my kin. But my ancestors belonged to the majority population of white people and they condoned such illegal and horrific acts. If I do not have the courage to stand and declare it was wrong and for that, I apologize, then I am guilty of perpetrating an attitude that is simply unacceptable. And that, young Allie, is a mission I have been on for thirteen years and the reason I am writing to you today.
Last spring, I expressed my failure and frustration in not having brought attention to the state government your tragic murder and a subsequent level of restorative justice to a friend, she suggested that I alter the strategy. Instead of seeking acknowledgement and reconciliation for only you I should do that for all those who were lynched in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I did just that. I started my visitations to several legislators asking for a resolution in the 2019 General Assembly session apologizing for lynching in the Commonwealth. I found interest or maybe it was you walking by my side urging me forward.
I was asked to draft the resolution so they could know what I was seeking. Allie, if you read the series that Allison and I wrote in 2006, you know I am thorough. I have been described as anal retentive about details and documentation and proud of it! So, I provided not only a draft of the resolution but documentation of other like-kind resolutions that had been passed by the US Congress and one in 2007 by the Virginia General Assembly. I also noted that the 2007 resolution about slavery was in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown and 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the first Africans to arrive on Virginia soil.
It was our good fortune to have the resolution brought to the attention of Virginia’s Martin Luther King Commission (a legislative body). They embraced the proposal, established a workgroup to which I was appointed. Your great- niece is also part of the team. We all worked on the resolution and it is a document full of strength and a few directives.
Allie, I assure you it is not just lip-service to the shameful past.
It includes building a digitized database of all victims, collaborating with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for a marker program and actively encouraging communities to conduct research and foster conversations that enlighten and heal.
Allie, there will be much more to learn in the months and years to come. But, today, February 20, 20I9, I wanted you to know that the Virginia Senate and the Virginia House are passing the resolution. I am snowed in and cannot get to Richmond, but you can. So, please be there and feel free to tell all the others (there are more than 100) that Virginia is on the right path to reconciliation.
In closing please allow me to thank you. You may think that your loss of life was for nothing, but you would be wrong. Allie, it is because of you that this historic piece of legislation has come to pass: the first for any state in the United States.
May Peace finally be yours.