Black man honored with funeral 123 years after being murdered in N.C. massacre

Joshua Halsey was one of possibly 250 victims of a massacre by white supremacists in November 1898, according to research project.

A Black man who was killed in a massacre more than 120 years ago has been honored with a funeral service. 

Joshua Halsey was one of possibly 100 victims of a massacre by white supremacists in November of 1898, according to research from the Third Person Project. However, CNN reports there could have been up to 250 victims that day. 

Members of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina honor Joshua Halsey at his grave site with community members at the Pine Forest Cemetery Saturday in Wilmington, N.C. Great-granddaughters of Halsey attended the service, where Rev. Dr. William Barber eulogized Halsey, who was reportedly killed by a white supremacist mob in 1898. (Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images)

Halsey’s remains were identified in an unmarked grave through years of historical research. Elaine Cynthia Brown, who is a descendent of Halsey’s, said that the discovery of her ancestor’s remains was “surreal” for her family. 

“We were in shock because this is so unprecedented,” Brown told CNN. “But then we said, ‘You know what? Why not Joshua?’

Why not be the beacon of what can happen when we sort of unearth the truth, uncover the truth and unpack it?” Brown wondered aloud. “You know, this is where it’s going to start, and the stories are going to come out as more victims are found, and we hear their stories. But we now know that it exists. We now know that we can change it. We now are getting the true history of what happened here.”

The Wilmington Massacre occurred in Wilmington, North Carolina, when white supremacists sought to overturn the government elected and installed during the Reconstruction era. 

Like Tulsa, Oklahoma, which would have its own deadly race massacre some 20 years later, Wilmington had a bustling Black community, one in which Blacks had banks, schools and libraries, plus had launched their own newspaper, The Daily Record. 

The Wilmington Massacre is considered the only coup d’état ever to take place on American soil, according to The Zinn Education Project. 

According to reports, a mob of more than 2,000 armed men destroyed The Daily Record newspaper, killed and jailed Black leaders, and white men were installed in community leadership roles. Two years later, the North Carolina legislature stripped African Americans of the vote and created some of the worst Jim Crow laws in the nation. 

The city of Wilmington is commemorating the massacre this week with a number of events to memorialize the victims. Rev. William Barber II of the Poor People’s Campaign gave the eulogy at Saturday’s ceremony honoring Halsey. 

“We must find the vestiges of systemic racism that are still happening today and that are still going on today,” Barber said. “And we must call them out in Joshua’s name. I’m here to tell you that what killed Joshua is still alive today.”

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