Sterling Thompson

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Fulton County, Georgia, January 3, 1901

On January 3, 1901, Sterling Thompson, a prominent black politician, was shot to death by a white mob in his home, about ten miles west of Fairburn, Georgia, near the Chattahoochee River. Mr. Thompson had been ordered to leave the county ten days earlier but refused to abandon his home.

During the era of racial terrorism, white mobs regularly used racial violence and lynching to terrorize black communities in order to maintain white political and economic control—a dominance originally achieved through slavery that was restored during this era through violent subjugation. Facing exploitation, discrimination, and disenfranchisement on one end, and deadly violence on the other, black people faced numerous challenges and barriers in the decades immediately following slavery and were often resisted in their attempts to truly realize the promises of freedom.

On the night of January 3rd, after the mob confronted him, Mr. Thompson agreed to leave, but the mob knocked down his door and riddled his body with bullets. Mr. Thompson’s wife and son were also in the home at the time of the attack. News coverage reported that they both survived the attack, though his son was wounded in the gunfire.

Like many lynchings, this murder was not just a response to perceived resistance to the established racial order, but was a stunning message to the entire African American community that attempts to gain political power would be tolerated.

Soil Collection

April 6, 2019