“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Shelbyville in Shelby County, Kentucky — The American South (East South Central)

Reconstruction in America / Lynching of Reuben Dennis

Community Remembrance Project

Reconstruction in America Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, July 24, 2022
1. Reconstruction in America Marker
Reconstruction in America
The end of the U.S. Civil War and the emancipation of enslaved Black people ushered in the era of Reconstruction. America had an opportunity to drastically change the experience of formerly enslaved Black people through federal enforcement. However, even before federal protection ended in 1877. thousands of Black people were victims of racially- and politically-motivated massacres. murders, and lynchings by White mobs who were shielded from prosecution. Initially, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Congressional efforts to protect formerly enslaved Black people from violence and disenfranchisement. Congress abandoned the promise of assistance to formerly enslaved Black people. By ceding political control back to Confederate veterans, federal officials allowed White southerners opposed to racial equality to re-establish white supremacy through intimidation and racial violence. Over 2,000 Black men, women and children were victims of racial terror lynching in the period of Reconstruction. Events of racial terror violence have been documented in at least 37 Kentucky counties during this era. The violence
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of Reconstruction and premature withdrawal of federal troops facilitated a post-emancipation reality for African Americans defined by White mobs enacting racialized violence with impunity for decades. It was during Reconstruction that a century-long era of racial hierarchy. lynching, and white supremacy was established.

Lynching of Reuben Dennis
In the early hours of February 15. 1878, at least three White men shot and killed a Black man named Reuben Dennis. The men abducted Mr. Dennis from the Shelbyville home of a Black man named Alfred Rucker, forced him at gunpoint to a nearby field, and fatally shot him. Mr. Dennis was lynched three months after being fined and released on charges of striking a White man. Though the reported facts suggested that Mr. Dennis had acted in self-defense. he was quickly arrested and arraigned on assault charges. In the racial caste system of this era, White lives and White property had heightened value compared to the lives of Black people. In an unusual development for the era, Mr. Dennis was convicted, but received a $25 fine rather than prison time. The mob raided the Rucker's home and terrorized the family. Racial terrorism sought to maintain white supremacy by instilling fear in the entire Black community through brutal violence that was often unpredictable and life-threatening to any Black person in a mob's
Lynching of Reuben Dennis Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, July 24, 2022
2. Lynching of Reuben Dennis Marker
path. Beyond questioning the terrified Rucker family and asking the governor to offer a reward for information, records indicate that officials made very little effort to conduct their own investigation into who killed Mr. Dennis. Like most documented lynching victims, Mr. Dennis was killed by a White mob who never faced prosecution.
Erected 2020 by Shelbyville Community Remembrance Project Coalition • Equal Justice Initiative.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansCivil RightsLaw Enforcement. In addition, it is included in the Lynching in America series list. A significant historical date for this entry is February 15, 1878.
Location. 38° 12.7′ N, 85° 12.947′ W. Marker is in Shelbyville, Kentucky, in Shelby County. Marker is at the intersection of Washington Street (U.S. 60) and 5th Street, on the left when traveling west on Washington Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Shelbyville KY 40065, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Lynching in America / Lynching of Sam Pulliam (here, next to this marker); Lynching in Shelbyville (a few steps from this marker); Shelby County, 1792 (within shouting distance of this marker); Lewis and Clark in Kentucky 1806 Return of Expedition / Death of Meriwether Lewis
Lynching of Reuben Dennis / Reconstruction in America Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, July 24, 2022
3. Lynching of Reuben Dennis / Reconstruction in America Marker
Featured marker is on the right.
(within shouting distance of this marker); Squire Boone's Station, 1779 (within shouting distance of this marker); The Blockhouse / Martin's Raid (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Shelbyville Fountain (about 300 feet away); Founder Capt. William Shannon (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Shelbyville.
Credits. This page was last revised on October 2, 2022. It was originally submitted on August 3, 2022, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 286 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on August 3, 2022, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Clear photo of the Lynching in America side of marker. • Can you help?

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Feb. 27, 2024