LEESBURG (June 19, 2019)—Tonight in Leesburg, Attorney General Mark R. Herring spoke at the Orion Anderson Remembrance Memorial and Dedication of Historical Marker. The Orion Anderson Remembrance Memorial for Peace and Justice is the first lynching memorial in Northern Virginia, dedicated to commemorating the life of the youngest victim of lynching in Loudoun County.The program included a processional from the site of the Old Jail House to the intersection of Harrison Street and the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, where 14 year old Orion Anderson was lynched in 1889.
Attorney General Herring’s remarks as prepared and delivered are below:
“We gather this evening to confront an act of terror. A murder born of racism and white supremacy that took the life of a 14 year old boy. A 14 year old boy named Orion Anderson.
He had a name. He had a life. He had a family, and he had a future.
But all of that was taken by a band of murderers whose hatred and bigotry blinded them to the humanity of a 14 year old boy.
Lynching is a stain on the soul of this nation. It was a sustained, concerted, unforgiveable campaign of terror designed to subjugate, intimidate, and dehumanize African Americans.
To try to tell African Americans that their lives and their bodies could be stolen from them for any reason or for no reason at all, and that the laws and the Constitutions of our Commonwealth and our country would do nothing protect them.
It was, in every way, an act of terror and hate, designed to force African Americans to retreat from our society, and from our American family.
The numbers are staggering and heartbreaking: more than 4,000 documented lynchings in America, at least 80 in Virginia, and at least three here in Loudoun County.
It’s a history that is difficult to confront, but we must be strong enough to do so with honesty.
Honesty is the first step on the path to justice and reconciliation, and I believe that today we are taking that step.
Here in Loudoun, and here in Virginia, we cannot bury the uncomfortable parts of our history. We cannot pretend that the campaign of racial terror that was lynching did not happen.
Because ignoring this painful part of our history makes it too easy to forget it. And we cannot rectify the legacy of racism and white supremacy until we confront it. And when we forget, we make it possible for the sins of the past to be repeated, which we must never do.
We’re in a moment when our nation and our state are confronting a rise and frightening reemergence of hate and white supremacist violence. The question we all must ask ourselves as individuals and as communities is what will we do in response?
Each of us will have to decide whether we will be bystanders in the face of hate, or whether we will take a stand.
As your attorney general I’m doing everything I can to fight back against the rise of hate and white supremacist violence.
I’ve proposed stronger laws and new tools to protect our citizens—none of which the General Assembly has seen fit yet to pass, but we are not giving up— and my team and I are providing more resources and support to vulnerable communities, so that every Virginian knows that they are welcome here.
And today, it’s clear to me, that Loudoun, too, is taking a stand for justice, equality, and reconciliation.
I think that we as a community should be proud that we are doing this together. Because not every community in Virginia is ready or willing yet to take that important step.
It says something about the character of this community that we are strong enough to be honest and unafraid to do the right thing in commemorating the life of Orion Anderson, and hopefully soon, we will do the same for Page Wallace and Charles Craven.
Orion Anderson’s life ended here in 1889. But with this marker, his name, and his story, will live on.”