Letter to the Editor: Centralia’s Response to 1919 Violence — Build a Monument


Some communities recognize past injustices of mob violence and lynching: They erect monuments to memorialize the victims.

Here are a few quotes surrounding the latest monument erected on the 100th anniversary of a lynching in Duluth, Minnesota:

“We have to acknowledge that dark past and how are we going to work together to make sure we will have a bright future — for all of us.”

“Those who do not learn history are condemned to repeat it. Let this public marker remind us of a gross injustice that can never be forgotten, hidden or ignored.”

“These wounds of hate, racism, oppression, hurt, slavery, marginalization, brutality and lynching aren’t going to heal themselves.”

Yet here in Centralia, a day after the events (Nov. 12, 1919) a Chronicle editorial defined the uniformed rioting lynch mob as being patriots carrying out “justice unobstructed by the lengthy legal process.”

The community all pitched in to construct a monument fitting for their courageous actions. It remains “unhindered” to this very day.

Credit where credit is due, for a Chronicle columnist a few years back recognized the events of Armistice Day 1919 by saying “mistakes were made on both sides.”

Well, I guess you’re right on that point. The labor union did not repel the burning and looting on their hall a year earlier, thus encouraging more of the same.

A participant in the 1919 assault expressed his disappointment in the way things turned out by saying: “I thought we were just going to have a little fun.”

Kudos to the parks board for making sure no one is prompted in the slightest to think on these things by “tabling” the matter for the last three years — keep up the good work!


Dennis Shain