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LaBelle professor, students work to memorialize victim of 1926 lynching


LABELLE, Fla. (WBBH) – Historian Joe Thomas won’t ever disregard a tale he used to be advised many years in the past when he used to be simply 10-years-old. 

It used to be the tale of the tree that after stood close to Bridge Street and Ford Avenue in LaBelle. 

“It was pointed out as being the pine tree that he was – the corpse was hung from,” Thomas recalled on the location. “And (there were) two shoes at the base of the tree which were rotting, and you could tell they had been there for some time.” 

“This is one of the worst kept secrets in LaBelle,” Brandon Jett, a History professor on the FSW campus in LaBelle, advised NBC2. “It’s one of those things that, like, no one really loves to talk about. But if you talk to people that have been here for a while, they all know about it.” 

It came about again in 1926. LaBelle used to be a most commonly white group. Black employees have been introduced in from out-of-state to assist construct a brand new freeway. Locals had concept they might get the paintings and weren’t satisfied.

It all boiled over on May 11, when a type of employees – Henry Patterson – walked as much as a space to invite for a pitcher of water.  

“He approaches the door of this home, knocks on it, or somehow gets the attention of Hattie Crawford, who lives at this home,” Jett defined. “She was apparently startled by the presence of this unknown black man who was at her door knocking.”

Crawford ran from her house – screaming – and locals briefly accused Patterson of rape. He used to be hunted down through an offended mob, tortured, and lynched. 

Included in his legitimate reason behind loss of life: booze and prejudice. 

“The story that I got was that he turned to somebody that was in the lynch mob and said, ‘Boss, you know me, you know I ain’t done nothing wrong,’” Thomas recalled. 

“I mean, it’s unimaginable,” Jett stated. “There’s no way I can fully understand what that felt like, and what the terror of that threat feels like to black Americans today, and what it felt like to black Americans at the time.”

But it’s what came about after the lynching that used to be other and in contrast to maximum different lynchings within the south. An precise investigation used to be introduced. 17 folks in all have been arrested.

In the top, a grand jury didn’t go back any indictments. The suspects have been loose. But the truth that it were given to that time – Jett stated – is noteworthy. 

“This isn’t just about the lynching of Henry Patterson,” Jett stated. “This is also about the effort of people who put a lot on the line to try to prosecute those who were responsible. And I think that type of heroism is also an important part of the story to tell.”

Jett and his scholars have made up our minds to do just that: inform this tale. Through analysis and interviews, they created a website online titled, Lynching in LaBelle.’

Jonathon Camina, who now research at UCF, is likely one of the scholars who labored at the mission. 

“I think every story untold should be told – especially cases like these,” Camina advised NBC2. “I want this to open the eyes of people so that they understand what African Americans in the United States had to endure.” 

Jett hopes a memorial bench alongside the Caloosahatchee River can additionally stay the tale alive. He helped elevate cash to buy it. There’s an inscription on it devoted to Patterson and to the prosecutor and pass judgement on who attempted to hunt justice for him. 

“If this goes away, if public memory of the lynching goes away, then the memory of Henry Patterson goes away,” Jett defined.

The bench isn’t a long way from a bunch of small, previous memorial bricks alongside Bridge Street. One of them reads, ‘Henry Patterson, Killed May 11, 1926.’

No one turns out to understand who devoted the brick. Not even Thomas, who as soon as served as head of the heritage museum within the town. 

Whoever did, sought after to verify something: that folks by no means disregard what came about to Henry Patterson. 

“We do need to know what happened in the past,” Thomas stated. “Black or white, it’s part of our history.”



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