In 1922, George Tompkins, a 19-year-old Black man, was found hanging from a tree in Indianapolis, IN with his hands bound behind his back. His death was initially ruled a suicide.

Marion County Deputy Chief Coroner Alfie McGinty corrected this ruling March 12 by issuing a new death certificate for Tompkins, with homicide listed as his cause of death.

“We will bring justice to something that was unconscionable to me,” McGinty said. “We are proud to be a part of this history some 100 years later, and we will remember George Tompkins.”

On March 16, 1922, Tompkins walked out of his home at 7:30 a.m. and was found hanging from a tree at about 2 p.m that afternoon.

The Indiana Remembrance Coalition has been advocating for Tompkins’ death certificate to be changed. According to Phil Bremen, a volunteer administrator with the group and a retired Ball State University communications professor, Tompkins’ case stood out because it was brushed off as a suicide with no follow-up by local authorities. “He was lynched on March 16. He was buried on March 20. The story disappeared no later than March 19. It was gone from the front pages, gone from the papers in two days.” said Bremen.

“This recognition comes 100 years too late,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said. “It is up to public officials like myself and others to preserve and promote equal justice for all residents of our city.”

Why You Need to Know:
On March 7, the U.S. Senate ruled lynching as a federal hate crime under the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act. The crime is punishable up to 30 years. Fine, but we needed this to happen between the years 1600 – 1980, when Black people were running for their lives from mobs who tarred, feathered, hung, burned, buried, drowned, and dragged Black men, women, and children without a care or punishment. Also, define lynching. The way I see it, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, James Byrd Jr., Eric Garner, Ronald Greene, Breonna Taylor, and Kendrick Johnson were all lynched.