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S.C. churches plan service to atone for 1916 lynching

ABBEVILLE, S.C. -- Local churches will hold a reconciliation service next week to apologize for not trying to stop racial strife decades ago, including the 1916 lynching of a wealthy black farmer.

During Tuesday's service, white church leaders will confess the sins of their ancestors and apologize to the black community for events such as the death of Anthony Crawford. His great-great-granddaughter praised the ministers' plan.

Ministers representing the black community will accept the apology and extend forgiveness in return, said the Rev. Wendell Rhodes, the pastor of Friendship Worship Center in Abbeville and organizer of the event.

The idea for the service came when Crawford's lynching was prominently mentioned during the US Senate's formal apology last month to the descendants of victims of lynchings.

''What was taking place was wrong, and the church and others remained silent. I felt that if we had this kind of service, healing could take place here and we could move on," Rhodes said.

Doria Dee Johnson, a great-great-granddaughter of Crawford, said she has been waiting for something like this for decades.

''All this time, this is what we've really been pushing for," she said. ''What we want is for representatives for the perpetrators and the victims of lynchings and other such crimes to sit down and have honest dialogue."

Johnson traveled from her home in Evanston, Ill., last month to watch the Senate apologize for not outlawing lynching.

She told the story of Crawford, who was jailed after an altercation with a white man.

''They dragged him down the stairs, tied him to the back of a buggy, drug him around the square, stabbed him, beat him, and hung him on a pine tree at the county fairgrounds," Johnson said.

Johnson and other members of a group called Southern Truth and Reconciliation recently held marches in Abbeville on the anniversary of Crawford's lynching, but she said she felt as though the community did not care.

But Tuesday's service makes her feel as though the town is ready to take the first step, she said.

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