100th Anniversary of Will Brown

October 2, 2019

Sept. 28, 2019 was the 100th anniversary of the Will Brown lynching. Will Brown was a 40-year-old African American man who lived and worked in Omaha.  

100 years ago, Milton Hoffman and Agnes Loeback were assaulted as they walked home from a late movie. Agnes was then raped by her assailant. Milton and Agnes identified Will Brown as the man who assaulted them. Brown was taken to the Douglas County Courthouse on Sept. 28, 1919 and was never given a chance to prove his innocence. That day, an estimated crowd of 10,000 stormed the courthouse until officials turned Brown over to them. Brown was hung from a lamp post, shot more them 100 times and dragged through the streets before being burned. Over 100 people were arrested but no one was charged for murder. Brown was buried in an unmarked grave in Potter’s Field at Forest Lawn Cemetery. 

“He (Brown) has a physical impairment, he was not even able to comit the crime… He was not strong enough,” Preston Love Jr. Said in an interview with WOWT news.  

What are people doing now to remember Will Brown? 90 years after Will Brown was buried, a man from California paid $450 to have a grave marker for Brown. On Aug. 31, 2019 community members went to Will Browns grave to plant flowers, pull weeds and cut the grass around the grave. A national group is also working to commemorate Will Brwon by providing a marker that will be placed somewhere in Omaha.  

Another way people are honoring Will Brown is a two- mile procession in honor of Brown and other people of color whose lives were lost due to violence. Vanessa German and 7 other local performers walked silently from The Union for Contemporary Art to the front steps of the Douglas County District Court. The group performed a goodbye ritual song and views watched.  

The story of Will Brown is often told at Central in History classrooms. Students learn that there is dark history in Omaha that is important to understand, and that people can get involved by volunteering with organizations that help with keeping stories like Will Browns alive. People can also pay respects to Will Brown and many others whose stories have not been shared at Potter’s Field. Sept. 28 is a day to remember and learn from.  

 

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