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Plans for Leesburg Lynching Marker Approved by Town Council

Updated: Jun 17, 2019

Phillip Thompson stands along the site of the former freight station on the W&OD Trail along Harrison Street in Leesburg. He and others hope the site will become a future memorial to the lynching that occurred there. [Renss Greene/Loudoun Now]

At least one visible reminder of Loudoun’s tragic past of lynchings is coming to fruition.

The Leesburg Town Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution endorsing the placement of a historical marker at the location of the former Potter’s Cemetery, at the northeast corner of Catoctin and East Market streets.

According to historical accounts, that is where Charles Craven was lynched by a mob of over 300 white men on July 31, 1902. He was shot and left hanging from a tree. Earlier that day the black man had been arrested on suspicion of murder of a prominent white farmer in the Herndon area. A mob overpowered authorities in the downtown Leesburg jail, and brought Craven to the cemetery where he was killed. Although charges were filed against some members of the mob, no one was ever convicted for Craven’s death.

The request for the historical marker was brought to the Town Council by Phillip Thompson, president of the Loudoun County branch of the NAACP. Thompson is pushing to erect markers at the sites of all three known lynchings in Loudoun County. Another is at the former site of the freight station along the W&OD Trail on Harrison Street and the third lies outside of the town near the Points of Rocks bridge. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority would need to sign off on the Harrison Street marker, as it falls on NVRPA property.

The approved marker at the site of the Craven lynching features both the history of his lynching, as well as the other two that occurred in Loudoun County. The marker will also contain the NAACP logo.

According to a letter from Thompson to the council, the NAACP will raise funds to pay for the marker, as well as work with the town on its placement. He is hoping to have both markers in Leesburg placed in time for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in January.

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