Omaha Commemorates Will Brown Lynching with Historical Marker

June 18, 2021, 4 p.m. ·

The historical marker of the Will Brown Lynching in front of the Douglas County Courthouse
Omaha NAACP president Vickie Young, standing in the blue dress, speaks with Omahans following the unveiling of the historical Will Brown marker. (Photo by Will Bauer, Nebraska Public Media News)

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Omaha leaders unveiled a new historical marker on the front lawn of the Douglas County Courthouse on Friday, recognizing the death of a Black Omaha man lynched over 100 years ago.

City, county and civil rights leaders were responsible for the new Will Brown historical marker, which depicts, in detail, the death of the Black man who was brutally dragged through Omaha’s streets in 1919 and then murdered by a white mob for an alleged rape he didn’t commit.

"We're not only here bringing remembrance to probably one of the most heinous crimes in our community, in our city's history," Vickie Young, Omaha NAACP president, told the crowd watching. "We are here to honor and pay our respects to an African-American man who lost his life over a crime that he was falsely accused of committing."

An estimated 500 Omahans watched the unveiling over noon hour and heard the gruesome story of Brown's death, which organizers say is an important part of Omaha's history to remember and discuss.

"The people of Omaha are actively seeking to being intentional about ensuring that this history is not repeated," said Elliot Spillers, a project manger with the Equal Justice Initiative, one of the many groups responsible for the new marker. "Also, that narrative change about the legacy of racial injustice and mass incarnation is discussed in public ways in the community."

The historical marker is 3 1/2 feet wide and just more than 3 feet tall. The marker stands near the front steps of the Douglas County Courthouse in downtown Omaha near where Brown was killed.