Omaha reveals historic marker in remembrance of Will Brown

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 3:09 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - For many here in Omaha, this year’s Juneteenth celebration has become a very special celebration. First, Juneteenth is now a national holiday and after more than 100 years, Omaha recognized the lynching of Will Brown today.

Will Brown, a Black man accused of a crime, who was brutally murdered on the streets of Omaha, never got a trial. An angry mob dragged him out of the courthouse.

They hanged him, shot him, dragged his body through the street, and set him on fire. Then the mob took time to pose for a picture.

Omaha buried its shame in Potter’s Field. Brown’s grave marker is here with the rest of Omaha’s poor and unknown.

Now, Will Brown’s story is on display to see. A historic marker now stands on the lawn of the Douglas County Courthouse where the horrific events of September 1919 occurred.

For Vicki Young, President of the Omaha NAACP, this is an emotional moment.

“This moment in time is so monumental because it’s bringing you back. If you look around, you see the diversity in the crowd, you see different ages different races different backgrounds. All of us, all of us want justice,” said Young.

Douglas County Commissioner Chris Rodgers says this marker becomes a page of Omaha history to see and learn from.

“Educating people about the things we need to correct, the things we need to atone for to kind of make it right,” said Rodgers.

“If people don’t realize and appreciate the significance of the city of Omaha and Douglas County acknowledging their complicity in an act of probably the most horrific violence to befall this community, it’s significant,” said former Omaha City Councilmember Brenda Council.

More than 100 years have passed and now Omaha recognized what happened to Will Brown, a Black man who never got a trial and was executed on the streets of the city.

“And that leads us to today where our shared goals of tolerance, respect, equity, and inclusion are in greater focus than ever before. This historic marker is a permanent reminder that Will Brown’s murder is definitely a stain on our history and his name must never ever be forgotten,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

Today’s event also recognized local high school students who participated in an essay contest focusing on reducing racial violence in Douglas and Sarpy Counties.

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