Photo credits: The Richmond Free Press
In 1892, a mob of at least 80 white men stormed the prison in Charles City, Virginia, took a Black man named Isaac Brandon from his cell, and lynched him in the courthouse yard, despite his little son’s pleadings.
Several white ladies had claimed that a Black man had entered their house and attempted to abuse them only a few days before. As word of the incident circulated, suspicion swiftly fell on Mr. Brandon. After a crime was found or reported, the strong racial enmity that pervaded Southern culture at the time sometimes worked to focus suspicion on Black communities, regardless of whether the evidence supported that suspicion or not. Almost a quarter of all lynchings featured claims of “assault” or “sexual assault” between a Black man and a white lady. The simple suspicion of sexual misbehavior routinely sparked lynchings by enraged crowds. Accusations leveled against Black individuals were seldom investigated.
Mr. Brandon was quickly apprehended and sent to prison. Despite the fact that there was no proof linking him or his little son—whose name was not reported in current newspapers—to the purported murder, they were both arrested and detained in prison for many days. On the evening of April 6, 1892, a crowd of at least 80 white men descended on the sheriff’s residence and announced their intention to lynch Mr. Brandon. The sheriff, although being armed and entrusted with defending those in his custody, failed to protect Mr. Brandon or his son from the mob’s activities, and the crowd was able to break through the jailhouse door without incident.
He maintained his innocence while he and his son implored the crowd not to carry out the hanging, saying, “You are about to hang an innocent man.” As the crowd shackled Mr. Brandon’s wrists, his tiny kid clung to him. Mr. Brandon’s son was thrown back into the detention cell, and Mr. Brandon was dragged away and hung from a tree in the courthouse yard.
Mr. Brandon’s corpse was kept hanging outside the courtroom until the following morning, and members of the Black community were forced to see his death in the town square, according to contemporaneous sources. White mobs often perpetrated lynchings in prominent communal areas, as was typical of racial terror violence, to degrade their victims and convey a message of horror and intimidation to the whole Black community.
According to the Equal Justice Initiative, between 1877 and 1950, at least 84 Black persons in Virginia were victims of racial terror lynchings.