Grant County Commissioners: Remember the 1930 Lynching

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On August 7, 1930, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith were lynched on a courthouse lawn in Marion, Grant County, Indiana. A third man, James Cameron, had a noose around his neck as well, but for ambiguous reasons, he was released. The events of this terrible night were captured in a notorious photograph of a white mob pointing, laughing, and glaring at the hanging young men.

The photograph was copied and sold by the thousands. It inspired Abel Meeropol to write the lyrics to the classic Billie Holiday blues song “Strange Fruit.” It was used, altered, in the 1996 movie The Chamber. In the last two years, the photograph appeared in the documentaries 13th and I Am Not Your Negro. It is now an iconic image of the terrors of lynching.

In April 2018, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) opened its Legacy Museum and its National Memorial for Peace and Justice, both dedicated to memory and justice for the over 4300 Black victims of lynching nationwide. EJI has three goals for every county where a lynching has occurred:

1)     That it may collect soil from the site of the lynching of every victim. This soil will be kept in jars in their museum, one for each victim.

2)     That it may place a historical marker at the site of each lynching, detailing what occurred there.

3)     That it may place a memorial stone at a prominent site in every county to remember its victims of lynching. This will be a duplicate of the stone at its memorial.

Since February 2017, I have contacted the Grant County Commissioners six times, asking them to work with the EJI to address the history of the courthouse lynching, thereby showing that “never again” is a commitment, not just words. To this day, April 29, 2018, the commissioners have not responded. Nor did they respond when the Indianapolis Star tried to contact them about this:

This petition is to the Grant County Commissioner, Ron Mowery, Mark E. Bardsley, and Michael H. Burton, asking them to agree to work with the Equal Justice Initiative to show that justice was once perverted at the courthouse. This becomes a check on the future, that we will no longer let justice be perverted, as it once was.

For now, I ask two main things from those who sign this petition.

First, please indicate if you are a resident of the following counties: Grant, Huntington, Wabash, Miami (site of Indiana’s largest prison), Howard, Tipton, Madison (site of several prisons, including the maximum-security Pendleton where Cameron was incarcerated), Delaware, and Wells. These are all the counties bordering and including Grant County, where the lynching occurred. If you are a student at Taylor University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Huntington University, Manchester University, Ivy Tech, Indiana University-Kokomo, or Ball State University, please let the commissioners know this as well. This petition is open to anyone anywhere, but I think it will help for the commissioners to know who in Grant County and surrounding counties are supporting this.

Second, please send a link to this petition with your own comments of support to the commissioners: For now, let us see what this accomplishes, but I may have future suggestions for action if these do not get results. Your help is appreciated.

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