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The Grey Highlands Peace Committee is commemorating this Saturday, July 11, the 150th anniversary of the lynching in Cross Plains Alabama of William Luke, a teacher and Wesleyan preacher from the Flesherton area. He and seven Black Alabamans were lynched by the Ku Klux Klan.

William Luke, who left behind a widow and six children in Flesherton, was murdered for the “crime” of educating Black children in Alabama on behalf of Talladega College. In the last minutes of his life, while two men were being hanged and shot behind him, he was allowed by the Klan to write this letter to his wife, Fanny Ann (Irwin) Luke, in Flesherton:

My Dear Wife:

I die tonight. It has been determined by those who think that I deserve it. God only knows I feel myself entirely innocent of the charge. I have only sought to educate the negro. I little thought when leaving you that we should thus part forever so far distant from each other. But God's will be done. He will be to you a husband better than I have been, and a father to our six little ones.

There is a balance of little over $200 in the company's hands of my money, also my trunk and clothes are here. You may send for these matters or let Henry come for them as you think best.

God of mercy bless and keep you ever dear, dear wife and children.

Your William

At 11:00 am on Saturday, simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies will be held at the South Grey Museum in Flesherton, and in Talladega Alabama at William Luke’s gravesite. The wreath laid in Flesherton by Mayor McQueen and Deputy Mayor Desai will become part of the South Grey Museum’s Black history exhibit. The ceremony in Talladega is sponsored by Talladega College, for which William Luke did much of his teaching. As one Talladega College official said this week:

"The murder of William Luke... on July 11th, 1870 is an example of Black Lives Matter because he was killed educating the newly freed slaves of Talladega, Alabama. William Luke demonstrated Black Lives Matter over 150 years ago."

Because of coronavirus guidelines, the ceremony in Flesherton is limited to ten guests. However, the ceremony will be live streamed and can be viewed during the event, and afterwards, on the South Grey Museum Facebook page thanks to South Grey Museum’s Cultural Heritage Curator Robert Iantorno, and Grey Highlands Public Library Videographer Greg Haug.

The Grey Highlands Peace Committee will host a larger event in future to explore the meaning of the lives and deaths of William Luke and his compatriots. I will make you aware of that future event when details are available, in case you decide to honour us with your presence at that event.

If you have a message of solidarity you’d like us to convey to our newfound friends in Talladega, please send it to me and I will forward your message to them.

Regards

John Butler
Editor, The Village Green

photo credit: Mike Reeves

 

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