Pilgrimage for racial justice marches through Roanoke

Event pays tribute to two men lynched in Roanoke more than 100 years ago

By Taj Simmons - Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - The Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Virginia made a trip through Roanoke to remember two men killed for their skin color more than a century ago.

The Pilgrimage for Racial Justice began in Staunton and is marching through southwest Virginia. A service Saturday afternoon promoting peace was held a block away from where William Lavendar and Thomas Smith were lynched in the 1890s.

Speakers at the event used it to teach people how this tragic history has lessons relevant to American life today.

"Our call to action is to stop being complicit in having others lose everything and letting that happen," said the Rev. Dick Willis, a deacon with the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Virginia. "Stop letting others be powerless. Stop letting others be voiceless."

The pilgrimage also stopped on the corner of Mountain and Franklin streets, which is believed to be the exact site of the lynchings.

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