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Last lynching in South Carolina subject of conference at Wofford

Next week is the 70th anniversary of the lynching of 24-year-old Willie Earle, a black man arrested for robbing and murdering a taxi driver in Pickens County, S.C., on Feb. 15, 1947.

Earle was jailed, and, according to circumstantial evidence, on Feb. 16, a convoy of taxi drivers drove to the jail, forced Earle’s release, beat, stabbed and shot him to death in what is considered the last racially motivated lynching in South Carolina.

Now Will Willimon, former Dean of the Chapel at Duke University, has written a book, “Who Lynched Willie Earle: Preaching to Confront Racism,” the subject of a free, day-long conference next Friday, Feb. 17, at Wofford College in Spartanburg.

The subsequent two-week trial in Greenville resulted in the acquittal of 31 white men who had been charged with Earle’s murder. The jury consisted of 12 white men. The British journalist Rebecca West covered the trial for the New Yorker, and a reporter and photographer for Life Magazine attended.

Willimon, currently professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke Divinity School, will lecture at the conference, along with Bishop Jonathan Holston of South Carolina.

Boxed lunch: $10. To register: fieldsem@wofford.edu.

Dannye: dpowell@charlotteobserver.com

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