Release: Oct. 18, 2016
GAMBIER, Ohio — Two dozen Kenyon College students, together with Marilyn Yarbrough Dissertation Fellows Francis Gourrier, visiting instructor of history, and Justin Hosbey, visiting instructor of anthropology, travel to Abbeville, South Carolina, this week to memorialize Anthony Crawford, a leader in the Abbeville community who was lynched more than 100 years ago.
The Kenyon students will join members of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, the We Say Enough Campaign and the Southern Truth and Reconciliation Network for the memorial events, to be held Friday, Oct. 21, and Saturday, Oct. 22. Their trip is supported by the Kenyon Campus Community Development Fund.
Crawford was one of the wealthiest and most powerful African-Americans in South Carolina. He was a prominent black farmer who owned 427 acres of land in Abbeville County, adjacent to his brothers’ properties. Crawford was assaulted, arrested and placed in jail after a disagreement with a white store owner over the price of cottonseed that Crawford brought to the market Oct. 21, 1916. Crawford was released on $15 bail, but he was later abducted by a mob of at least 200 white men and lynched at a nearby fairground. His family was later advised to leave Abbeville “for the sake of peace and the best interest of the county.”
Kenyon students were invited by the Crawford family to lead sessions during an all-day teach-in Friday. Topics for the sessions include the civil rights movement, anti-lynching activism, and a look at “Strange Fruit,” the iconic song by Billie Holiday protesting widespread lynching. Gourrier and Hosbey, experts in African-American history and cultural anthropology, advised the students in their preparations for the sessions.
“In Kenyon’s mission statement, the College expresses a commitment to viewing ‘students as partners in inquiry, and seeks those who are earnestly committed to learning,’ ” Gourrier said. “This trip gives us a chance to actualize that mission outside of our ordinary classroom experiences.”
EJI Executive Director Bryan Stevenson will officiate a marker unveiling ceremony Saturday in downtown Abbeville as part of the EJI’s Community Remembrance Project, a campaign to recognize the victims of lynching. The Kenyon students’ visit to Abbeville comes a month after Stevenson visited Kenyon’s campus to discuss his work with the EJI on behalf of lynching victims.
“Stevenson’s talk inspired students to want to do some of the work he described,” Gourrier said. “It was hard to plan the trip in a short amount of time, but I think the success of his speech worked in our favor.”
Doria Johnson, Crawford’s great-great-granddaughter and a primary organizer of the event, said, “My family was devastated in 1916, our land was stolen, and we were ordered out of town by hundreds of our white neighbors. We continue to suffer and are honored that Professor Gourrier and the student teachers are lending their hearts and talents to this effort.”