Historical marker dedicated for Thomas Smith in Roanoke

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 12:16 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - September 21, 1893, Thomas Smith was lynched by a mob on the corner of Franklin Road and Mountain Avenue in Roanoke.

“There are so many in Roanoke that know nothing about this incident and know nothing about William Lavender,” said Dr. Brenda Hale, chairwoman of the Roanoke Equal Justice Initiative Coalition, Community Remembrance Project.

Wednesday evening, the Roanoke Equal Justice Initiative Coalition was joined by city leaders and more than 100 community members for the dedication ceremony of a historical marker in honor of Thomas Smith.

“Folks, it has taken us 129 years to get to this point. We must never forget, we are here because of three years of work. We address racism every day of our lives; we cannot get to where we need to be if we’re not united in this seven time All American City. We must be united; we must do the things that we do because we cannot be quiet,” said Hale.

It was a special day for the community and more than 30 people who make up the coalition, it was also a special day for one of Smith’s descendants, Teresa Scruggs.

“It’s acknowledgement, because he didn’t do it. It just feels good to realize that Roanoke realized their wrongs,” said Scruggs.

Soil was also collected from the site to be sent back to the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.

Now every passerby on Franklin Road will be able to learn and remember Smith’s history. This project has been three years in the making and the coalition plans to continue shining a spotlight on underrepresented history in the Roanoke area.