“The Last Ballad of Rubin Stacy” is the first of a series of zines in which I try to use the language and meter of the blues to tell the story of the last Black person lynched in each of the states in which my ancestors lived. Those states are Maryland, South Carolina, Florida, and Virginia. Today, many of these states feature thriving cities in which Black people and Black communities prosper, in ways that previous generations probably could never have imagined. This and the other zines I have planned, though, take a moment to pause and remember just a few of the Black people whose lives were lost during the heightened period of racial violence that marked the first decades of the 20th century.
Many of those who were lynched were deeply marginalized. Most were impoverised, some were intellectually disabled, many were unemployed, at least one was homeless. I was saddened to discover that for some Black people who were lynched, the only existing photo of them is the photo of their lifeless body, taken as a souvenir of by their white attackers. It feels like both a mission and a sacred task to try to draw and imagine them in life.