TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Exactly 122 years after one of Terre Haute’s darkest days, one local family celebrated love and peace.
On Feb. 26th, 1901, George Ward, a Black man, was lynched after being accused of killing Ida Finkelstein. In recent years, surviving members of his family have arranged for a marker to be placed at Fairbanks Park to commemorate Ward. In 2022, they also hosted a ceremonial burial.
Sunday, members of the Ward family held a wreath-placing ceremony at both of those sites, as well as the site of Finkelstein’s grave. Terry Ward, George’s great-grandson, said it was to acknowledge the injustice they both faced.
“Every opportunity we get on the day of his death, we will honor him in some kind of way,” Ward said. “But we also wanted to honor Ida Finkelstein, because we realized that neither of them got due process of the law. They were both murdered.”
The event follows a hate group trying to proclaim Saturday as the “National Day of Hate,” in the U.S. Ward said he was happy to celebrate love on Sunday– even while acknowledging a gruesome event.
“We wanted to do something to represent love, mercy, peace and justice,” he said. “We hope that what we do, by bringing the past to the present, not living in the hatred or living in the mistreatment, but living in the right mindset to try and love everyone, as we wish that they had been loved in their day in age.”
Arthur B. Feinsod, a friend of Ward’s who used to be the President of the Interfaith Council of the Wabash Valley, said he was “deeply moved” by Sunday’s ceremony.
“Whenever we can bring light out of darkness, or high out of lowness, it’s a great thing,” he said. “A horrible thing happened February 26, 1901. But we are showing we can turn a horrible tragedy that never should have happened into something positive.”
Feinsod said he saw Sunday as a show of unity.
“African-American people, white people, Jews, Christians, standing together in love and unity. We’re saying that you can’t let hate win. You cannot let hate win,” he said.
Dr. Crystal Reynolds, a local historian who was also on hand, said she thought the anniversary was an opportunity to remember Ward’s story– and its significance.
“It’s a tragic event and it should not be forgotten. Every year, we should come and tell this story. History cannot repeat itself. You have to learn from history. If you don’t know the story, you’re bound to repeat it,” she said.
She said she believes the community support they’ve seen speaks to the best aspects of Terre Haute.
“Terre Haute is a loving place. There are really good people here,” she said. “Hate has no place in Terre Haute. I want everyone to know Terre Haute is a good place and we want to celebrate Terre Haute.”