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The History Of Lynching In WNC - And Will It Be Remembered?

Monuments at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala., commemorate lynchings in more than 800 U.S. Counties

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama features monuments for lynchings that occurred in more than 800 U.S. Counties.  That includes Buncombe, Haywood, Macon, and Cherokee Counties in Western North Carolina.  Exact replicas of each monument have also been created, with designers hoping they are taken to be displayed in the counties here each lynching has occurred.  That hasn't happened yet for those destined for Western North Carolina.

Smoky Mountain News reporter and BPR contributor Cory Vaillancourt examined the Haywood County lynching, and the current discussion around whether the monument honoring the victim George Ratcliff should be brought to the county.  Ratcliff was arrested in 1900 and accused of the alleged rape of the 10-year granddaughter of the farmer he worked for outside of Clyde.  Just a day after his arrest, Ratcliff was shot more than 40 times in his jail cell by an angry mob, having never gone to trial or even speaking to a lawyer as far as history can tell. 

Vaillancourt sat down with BPR's Matt Bush to discuss the lynching monuments, a meeting last weekend of the Haywood County NAACP chapter that focused on the monument to Ratcliff, and how these monuments fit into the national discussion about the future of existing Confederate monuments that stand in many of the same counties where lynchings took place.

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.