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Irondale in Jefferson County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)
 

Racial Terrorism and Criminal Justice / Lynching in Irondale

Community Remembrance Project

 
 
Racial Terrorism and Criminal Justice Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, February 20, 2021
1. Racial Terrorism and Criminal Justice Marker
Inscription.  
Racial Terrorism and Criminal Justice
Racial terror lynching between 1865 and 1950 claimed the lives of thousands of African Americans and created a legacy of injustice that can still be felt today. After emancipation, white Southerners remained committed to an ideology of white supremacy and used fatal violence and terror against Black communities to perpetuate the racial hierarchy and exploitative practices established during slavery. Lynching became the most public and notorious form of racial terrorism and was generally tolerated in communities with functioning criminal justice systems. White mobs targeted Black women, men, and children who exercised their civil rights, defied racial social customs, or were accused of crimes. Denied due process and equal protection under the law, often based on mere accusations, lynching victims were regularly pulled from jails or delivered to mobs by law enforcement officers required to protect them. Race, rather than the alleged offense. most often contributed to the fates of lynching victims like William Wardley. Of the more than 360 documented racial terror lynchings that
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took place in Alabama, at least 30 have been documented in Jefferson County.

Lynching in Irondale
On December 7, 1896, William Wardley, a Black man, was lynched by an armed mob of white Irondale residents. That day, Mr. Wardley, along with two companions, attempted to purchase apples from a local grocery store. The merchant refused to accept Mr. Wardley's money because he assumed it was counterfeit. During this era, a white person's allegation against a Black person would rarely be subject to scrutiny and often sparked violent reprisal, even when there was no evidence of a crime. Based on this accusation, a mob, which included a local minister and a police constable, formed and pursued Mr. Wardley and his companions before fatally shooting Mr. Wardley. His body was later found along a railroad track a little over a mile outside of town. His two companions survived. After the lynching of Mr. Wardley, the U.S. Treasury Department investigated the counterfeit claim and proved the money was real. However, the Treasury Department's report did not mention Mr. Wardley's death, and white residents continued to maintain the false counterfeit claim to justify the mob's violent actions. The local press, sympathetic to the mob, reported that Mr. Wardley caused his own death to avoid capture by the authorities. No one was ever held accountable
Lynching in Irondale Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, February 20, 2021
2. Lynching in Irondale Marker
for William Wardley's lynching.
 
Erected 2021 by Equal Justice Initiative, Irondale Memorial Coalition.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansCivil Rights. In addition, it is included in the Lynching in America series list. A significant historical date for this entry is December 7, 1896.
 
Location. 33° 32.309′ N, 86° 42.488′ W. Marker is in Irondale, Alabama, in Jefferson County. Marker is on North 1st Street north of 19th Street North, on the right when traveling north. Located just south of the Irondale Train Viewing Platform and across street from the Irondale Cafe. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1900 N 1st St, Birmingham AL 35210, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Highlands School (approx. 1.8 miles away); Howard College (approx. 1.8 miles away); Ruhama Baptist Church (approx. 1.9 miles away); East Lake Community (approx. 2 miles away); East Lake Park (approx. 2.4 miles away); CDR "Snuffy" Smith (approx. 2.4 miles away); Wallace S. McElwain / Irondale Furnace Ruins (approx. 2.4 miles away); Oldest House In Shades Valley / Irondale Furnace Commissary (approx. 2.6 miles away).
 
Regarding Racial Terrorism and Criminal Justice / Lynching in Irondale.
View of marker across from Irondale Cafe. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, February 20, 2021
3. View of marker across from Irondale Cafe.
The mob changed their story to claim that Mr. Wardley had either killed himself or that he had fallen on and discharged his own gun. No one was ever prosecuted, including an area minister who had participated in the mob.
 
Looking north towards Train Viewing Platform on right. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, February 20, 2021
4. Looking north towards Train Viewing Platform on right.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 20, 2021. It was originally submitted on February 20, 2021, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 304 times since then and 45 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on February 20, 2021, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.

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Apr. 18, 2024