Remembrance ceremony and new marker unveiling planned next week for Alexandria lynching victim

A remembrance ceremony is planned next week to mark the 124th anniversary of the lynching of Alexandria teen Benjamin Thomas and the unveiling of a new historic marker.

Thomas, one of two black Alexandrians murdered by lynch mobs, was 16 when he was hanged and shot at the corner of King and Fairfax streets in 1899.

According to the City of Alexandria:

Thomas was arrested on Monday, August 7, 1899, for allegedly assaulting a white girl, but this was never proven. That night, Black community leaders warned police and the mayor that another lynching might occur, similar to the lynching of Joseph McCoy two years earlier on April 23, 1897. When the authorities refused their entreaties, the African American Alexandrians tried to protect Thomas themselves, standing guard near where he was being held. The police arrested them, and the next morning, they were, tried, fined and sent to the chain gang. The next night, somewhere between 500 and 2000 Alexandrians took Benjamin Thomas from the city jail on St. Asaph Street, dragged him over cobblestones for half-a-mile to the corner of King and Fairfax Streets where they hanged and shot the young man.

The ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. at 401 N. St. Asaph Street.

“Participants will be invited to solemnly walk the half-mile trail the lynch mob took down St. Asaph Street to King Street and then to the intersection with Fairfax Street,” the city’s website said. “Upon arriving at the site of the lynching of Benjamin Thomas we will hold a wreath-laying ceremony.”

City Hall, the lamp post where Thomas was lynched, and the George Washington Masonic Memorial will be lit up in purple to commemorate Thomas.

Image via City of Alexandria