County Executive  |  EJI Community Remembrance Project



Background Information

The Story of John Henry James

A Community Discussion About Lynching

 (The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama)


Between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States. Lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. EJI has documented more than 4000 racial terror lynchings in 12 Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950. EJI supplemented this research by documenting racial terror lynchings in eight additional states which accounted for more than 300 racial terror lynchings. 

The Equal Justice Initiative's (EJI) Community Remembrance Project is a campaign to recognize the victims of lynching by collecting soil from lynching sites, erecting historical markers, and creating a memorial that acknowledges the horrors of racial injustice.


(Jar of soil collected from John Henry James' lynching site)

Say His Name | His Story 

On July 12th, 1898, John Henry James, an African American man, was lynched near Charlottesville, in Albemarle County, for allegedly assaulting an unmarried white woman.

On July 11, 1898, John Henry James was accused of criminally assaulting Miss Julia Hotopp outside the gate of her home near Charlottesville. He was charged for the assault and arrested. Fearing a potential lynching mob, officials arranged James' transfer by train to a facility in Staunton, VA. James was in the charge of Chief of Police Frank Parish and Lucien Wells, sheriff of the county. When the train stopped at Wood's Crossing Station (four miles west of Charlottesville) the train was boarded by a mob of unmasked, armed men. The mob was estimated to be about 150 individuals and overwhelmed James' escort.

The mob seized James and carried him 40 yards from Woods Crossing to a small locust tree. After being allowed to pray for twenty minutes, James was hanged and shot. The Shenandoah Herald reported that 75 perforated his body. Despite his death, a grand jury found John Henry James guilty.

John Henry James' story is provided by JMU's Racial Terror: Lynching in Virginia, 1877 - 1927 research project.


(Full screen video can be found here)

Community Discussion about Lynching

On July 7, 2018, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center hosted a community discussion before approximately 110 elected officials, community leaders, and residents from City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County embarked on the Community Civil Rights Pilgrimage. The panel included a showing of the soil collection ceremony and a screening of An Outrage: A Documentary About Lynching in the American South. 

Siri Russell, Albemarle County's Management and Public Policy Analyst, was instrumental in coordinating the County's participation in this event. For questions or comments, she can be contacted here.



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