Historic marker designates site where man was lynched in Gadsden 100 years ago

Updated: Dec. 13, 2016 at 6:40 PM CST
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GADSDEN, AL (WBRC) - A historic marker in Gadsden commemorates a dark moment in the east Alabama city's history when a black man was lynched 100 years ago from a bridge.

Bunk Richardson was remembered in a special ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

He was one of six people accused in the rape and murder of a white woman, but now believed to be innocent.

Richardson died hanging from the span of the downtown Gadsden railroad bridge.

It was the work of a lynch mob following the death of Sarah Jane Smith, despite the lack of evidence against Richardson.

"He was not connected at all, actually. He just passed Vance Garner on the street that night, and when Garner was arrested that night, he actually went to the police and said 'I couldn't possibly have done it because Bunk saw me on the road that night,'" Gadsden historian Chari Bostick said.

A mob showed up at the jail and demanded to see Richardson.

"They went into the jail, and demanded that Bunk come out. And the jailer was knocked out. And they took him from the jail, and brought him through town, and took him out on the railroad trellis, and hung him," Bostick added.

Three other men, including Vance Garner, were eventually convicted.

But the Gadsden Reads project and its study of the Bryan Stevenson book Just Mercy ignited the idea of remembering Richardson and the injustice done to him without so much as a trial.

"We have come to know that there are several in the state that have been unjustly hanged for things that they wouldn't have been normally been hanged for," Bostick said.

The Equal Justice Initiative, which is led by Stevenson, has plans to build a national memorial and museum honoring more than 4,000 victims of lynching. The museum is slated to open in April 2017 and the memorial will likely open in late 2017 in Montgomery.

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