John Preston Porter Jr. was just 16 years old in 1900 when a mob of residents from the town of Limon in Eastern Colorado took him from a Denver jailhouse and proceeded to burn him alive for a crime he did not commit. Hundreds of people attended the burning, many coming via train to watch the death of an innocent boy.
The Porter Jr. case murder was not an isolated incident: over 4000 people of color were lynched from 1835 to 1964. This Saturday, November 17, Porter Jr. will be commemorated with a ceremony in Limon. Rosemary Lytle, the president of the NAACP Colorado Montana and Wyoming state conference, says that Porter Jr. was targeted because he was black.
“They looked at a poor white man, they looked at two people who were identified as Mexican, they looked at Porter Jr.’s brother and father, before they settled on him, a 16-year-old boy… they beat him into an admission of it.”
Lytle says the Ku Klux Klan had a prominent political position in Colorado during the early 1900s, making something like this grotesquely easy to do. Throughout the United States, state-sanctioned racism was commonplace and widely accepted by the public.
Last April, the Equal Justice Initiative opened the National Memorial for peace and Justice, which, according to their website, “is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.”
Informally known as the lynching museum, the memorial is a landmark in spaces that openly teach and contextualize the unmitigated terror that was early America for African Americans.
The ceremony to remember Preston Porter Jr. will be held at the Limon Heritage Museum and Railroad Park, 1000-1062 1st Street, followed by a community gathering at the Limon Community Building, 477 D Avenue.