While Sophie Kloppenburg may be young, she already has experience fighting adversity in the name of commemorating Black history.
This 17-year-old specifically had to overcome pushback while embarking on a mission to pay homage to 7 Black men who were lynched in her hometown of Mount Vernon, Indiana, per the Atlanta Black Star.
Calling Attention To Mount Vernon’s Dark Past
While practicing for a driving test with a family friend, Sophie began to learn of Mount Vernon’s troublesome history. Despite the South Indiana community being her hometown, she had never heard of its dark past.
“We got to talking about Black history and everything, and he told me about the lynchings that had happened, and I was obviously shocked because I’ve lived here my whole life and never knew that had happened.”
Over the course of 3 days in October 1878, a lynch mob brutally killed 7 men—Daniel Harrison Jr., John Harrison, Daniel Harrison Sr., Jim Good, William Chambers, Edward Warner, and Jeff Hopkins. CBS reports that the killings took place after the men were accused of rape. Additionally, it’s important to note that the mob hanged four of the men outside of the Posey County courthouse.
Once she learned this information, Sophie sought out to see if the courthouse commemorated the incident at all. However, she was unable to find any mention of the killings, so she started a mission to change that with a memorial.
Critics Fight To Whitewash History In Posey County
Although Sophie’s pursuit to honor the lynching victims is commendable, locals didn’t exactly embrace it with open arms.
As the community of Mount Vernon is predominately white, Sophie felt as though many weren’t too concerned with the project. In fact, she told the Atlanta Black Star that she had to appeal to the Posey County Commissioners Office on five different occasions before they agreed to see the memorial through.
Bryan Schorr, a county commissioner, addressed this by noting that the hesitance was “more about getting the wording right and making sure it was accurate and captured people’s interest in a positive way.
In turn, Sophie recalled some of the compromises she made to turn her project into a reality.
“I had to take out, to me, really important words like ‘lynched’ [and] ‘mobbed’…I couldn’t use those really important words because it made people too uncomfortable.”
Kloppenburg was sure to push back against some of the other edits, though.
“They also wanted me not to include the word African American in there, and I was like, absolutely not. What’s the point of us putting this up there if people don’t know this was a racially motivated murder?”
All in all, Sophie accomplished her goal, and she’s happy that her community is open to “having the difficult conversations.”
“I’m proud of Posey County, Indiana, and the beautiful people here for having the difficult conversations and giving a tangible voice to its minorities. Thank you.”
Sophie Kloppenburg, 17, of Mount Vernon, Indiana, helped give seven Black men who were victims of the state’s largest recorded lynching a memorial 144 years after their gruesome fates.
— Atlanta Black Star (@ATLBlackStar) November 19, 2022
Shoutout to Sophie Kloppenburg for pushing through and establishing a memorial to honor the victims of the Mount Vernon lynchings.