Austin Callaway, an 18-year-old African-American male, allegedly assaulted a white woman on September 7, 1940, in Troup County, Ga. — almost 77 years ago. He was arrested and put in the city jail.
That night, a mob of angry, white men allegedly took him from police custody, drove him to the Liberty Hill area, shot him and left him to die – which he did.
Austin was just one of many – very many. Some statistics estimate 5,000 blacks were lynched from the 1800’s to 1955.
But those are just the ones we know about.
Ignorant hate fueled those atrocities — cowardly fear enabled them to continue.
And there has been little or no public acknowledgement by elected officials, law enforcement, or private citizens for the unjust murder of thousands of Americans.
It is true that we may not be directly responsible.
It is true we may not have tightened the noose, kicked the stool away, applauded the victims’ agony, mutilated their bodies, burned their homes or turned a blind eye to the carnage.
But it happened.
Austin Callaway was murdered…along with thousands and thousands of others.
But maybe there is hope in the shadow of this dark, dark past.
On Jan. 26, Lagrange, Ga., city officials and local NAACP representatives will acknowledge the crime at a public event.
This is truly historical. Author Karen Branan told me her research indicates LaGrange is only the second municipality in the country to offer an official apology for a lynching. The only stat I could uncover was a U.S. Senate apology in 2005.
The ceremony will be held in the Warren Temple United Methodist Church at 6 p.m.
Since I stopped working for the newspaper, I revel in the fact I don’t have to commute all over West Central Georgia during the evening hours. And I stay far way from doing so.
But since there is no way we can insure justice today if we do not recognize our injustices in the past, I’m heading to LaGrange Thursday evening.
I cannot change what politicians say or what they do.
I cannot change the fact that money and power have hijacked our collective conscience.
I cannot deny the despair I feel.
But I certainly can pay homage to Austin Callaway this Thursday.