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No longer hidden from history, the story of lynching victim Arthur Henry

The lynching of Arthur Henry bronze plaque near the Wells’Built Museum in Parramore<br/><br/>
Marian Summerall
The lynching of Arthur Henry bronze plaque near the Wells’Built Museum in Parramore

A new historic marker in Orlando’s Parramore neighborhood details the 1925 lynching of Black resident Arthur Henry. The details of his murder came to light only a few years ago.

It's part of an effort by the Alliance for Truth and Justice to shed light on the region's racially charged past.

The unveiling of the plaque and memorial was at the Wells’Built museum in Parramore where dozens of people attended the dedication service for Arthur Henry including his family. He was a thirty-five-year-old Black man and veteran who moved to Orlando around 1920 to work in the citrus industry.

But, on Thanksgiving night in 1925, two officers and Henry were wounded during a shootout. They were taken to a local hospital. The reason for the incident is still unknown.

Later at the hospital, three white men kidnapped and murdered Henry. They left his body southwest of downtown– which was discovered twelve days later. His killers were never identified.

"That made it hard to sleep many nights," said Harry Coverston.

Harry Coverston led the investigation into Arthur Henry’s lynching. He works with the Equal Justice Initiative and the Alliance for Truth and Justice researching long-forgotten racially charged crimes. For Coverston, he felt a connection to Henry almost a century later.

"I began to sense, you know, who he was as a human being, I just thought, you know, this is this is a human being, and this is a human story," Coverston said.

As Coverston uncovered Henry’s past, he reached out to the relatives of the man to share his story, including Derrick Henry. He’s the Mayor of Daytona Beach and his grandfather was Arhtur Henry’s cousin. It was the first time anyone in his family had heard the story.

"It was more or less like a good punch, to learn about it. Because you're walking down the street you live in, and you know, your history, you think you know, your history," Henry said. "And all of a sudden, someone tells you this."

 Members of the Henry family gather in front of the bronze plaque dedicated to Arthur Henry.
Marian Summerall
Members of the Henry family gather in front of the bronze plaque dedicated to Arthur Henry.

He believes his grandfather was attempting to protect his family by not sharing details of the murder.

It is not uncommon for African American families to find out that a relative was a victim of racial injustices, says Eric Smaw, a philosophy professor at Rollins College.

"That's not unusual in African American families, because of the legacy of slavery and because of the legacy of segregation," Smaw said. "Much of our heritage has been lost. And so, it takes a lot of research in order for people to learn that they are related to people who are icons in history."

That history is being taken away. Several states, including Florida, have limited the teaching of African American studies. Smaw says that teaching this history is crucial and by acknowledging historical racial injustices, students can learn from them.

"In sharing that part of American history, we will open up the minds of other parts of other people who play roles in American history, so that they can tell their stories, and the more people share their stories, the greater sense of the struggle," Smaw said.

For Derrick Henry, he hopes more people will hear the story of his relative, Arthur.

"We live in a time when people desire to erase history, to pretend to be so offended by things that have happened in the past, that they can't digest the process or live with," Henry said. "But it is important that his story be known, because this happened, and he suffered a pain and injustice that should not be hidden."

Arthur Henry’s story will now be known, told on a bronze plaque near the Wells’Built Museum in Parramore. Hidden no longer from history.

Copyright 2023 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Marian Summerall
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