Jesse Washington1

At a January 2016 event, Patricia Bernstein, author of the book “The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP,” holds a photo from the public torture and murder of Washington.

Staff photo— Jerry Larson

In an effort to commemorate the horror of the Jesse Washington lynching, the McLennan County Historical Commission voted Thursday to support a community effort to place a new historical marker in Waco.

A planning committee approached the historical commission with hopes of seeing a marker placed in Waco that recognizes the historical significance of the event to Central Texas. The request comes ahead of the 100-year anniversary of the day Jesse Washington, a black 17-year-old, was convicted of murder and publicly lynched in Waco.

The commission agreed to throw its support behind placement of marker to commemorate the high-profile example of racially motivated lynching.

“We don’t necessarily want to memorialize this one event, but we want to look more broadly at the culture of the time and see that as the low point in our humanity,” said Toni Herbert, a member of the Jesse Washington Commemorative Planning Committee. Herbert represented the group in front of historical commission.

In the event that became known as the Waco Horror, Washington was carried out of a courtroom on May 15, 1916 and was lynched in front 10,000 community members outside of Waco’s City Hall.

During her request to commission members Thursday, Herbert said there will be a communitywide effort to establish the marker.

“I know that he was convicted of a pretty horrible crime,” Herbert said. “But that completely lawless grabbing, dragging, hanging and burning is unbelievable, and we want this marker to say that this is our dedication as a community to acknowledge our past and commit to never letting this happen again.”

Efforts are being made to write an application to the Texas Historical Commission’s Undertold Stories program, said Jo Welter, a planning committee member and chairwoman of the Community Race Relations Coalition .

“This is going to take some time, and it will not be done in time for the memorial service,” Welter said, referring to a service planned on the 100th anniversary of the lynching. “We have had meetings trying to decide what we wanted to do to mark this in our community, but the historical marker is something that the Washington family is very interested in, along with everything we are planning.”

The committee plans to submit its application by May, Welter said.

For more information about the Jesse Washington Commemorative Planning Committee and agencies involved, visit www.wacolegacy.org.

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