The Office of Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School and Will Willimon, S.T.D., professor of the practice of Christian Ministry at the school, will host a discussion inspired by William B. Gravely’s new book, They Stole Him Out of Jail: Willie Earle, South Carolina’s Last Lynching Victim.
Published by the University of South Carolina Press, the book tells the story of Willie Earle, an African American man arrested for the murder of a South Carolina taxi driver. Earle was then abducted from his jail cell by a mob and beaten, stabbed, and shot to death on Feb. 17, 1947. An investigation produced 31 suspects and 26 confessions, but after a nine-day trial that attracted national press attention, the defendants were acquitted by an all-white jury.
Gravely’s research into the context of the Earle lynching and subsequent trial inspired Willimon’s book, Who Lynched Willie Earle?: Preaching to Confront Racism, which uses the true story of pastor Hawley Lynn’s March 1947 sermon titled “Who Lynched Willie Earle?” as an opportunity to respond to the last lynching in Greenville, S.C., and its implications for a more faithful proclamation of the Gospel today.
Willimon will give a short talk outlining the historical events and setting up a conversation with David Emmanuel Goatley, Ph.D., research professor of theology and Black Church Studies and director of the Office of Black Church Studies, both at the Divinity School, and DeAndre Dukes, a senior M.Div. student, about the lasting legacy of lynching on the church and its preaching.