YOUNGSVILLE – At 10 a.m., on Saturday, August 13, 2022 a memorial remembers the life of Ovide Belizaire, who was murdered in his Youngsville area home in 1895 by a white mob. In addition, a yet unidentified man, recognized as having suffered death by lynching in 1878 in the neighborhood of Royville, today known as Youngsville, will also be remembered. Move the Mindset, in collaboration with 15 local organizations, partners with the Equal Justice Initiative’s Community Remembrance Project as a means to memorialize documented victims of racial violence and foster meaningful dialogue about race and justice today.
Samples of soil will be collected in jars in memory of Ovide Belizaire and the Unknown Individual. The jars of soil, labeled with the individual’s name and date/year of death, are displayed at memorials in both the parishes/counties where the crimes occurred and at the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Ala. To virtually view the memorial and the soil collection ceremony, visit: https://movethemindset.org/events
According the Equal Justice Initiative, “more than 4,400 African Americans were lynched across 20 states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950. Racial terror lynching were more than just hanging. They involved groups of white people committing acts of fatal violence against African Americans to instill fear in the entire Black community.” Belizaire and the Unknown Individual are two of six Lafayette Parish lynching victims identified by the Equal Justice Initiative. Both murders occurred during a span of time recognized as a Nadir, or heightened period of racism. It was that time following reconstruction, from 1877 to 1915 that the number of lynching and beatings of African-Americans surpassed those during the entire antebellum era.
Belizaire, a black man in his 40s, died July 19, 1895 as a result of a gunshot, after a mob entered his Youngsville home. Newspaper reports accused Mr. Belizaire of firing on the mob upon answering the door, but five of his family members testified at the coroner’s inquest that he had invited the mob in to look around. The mob was allegedly looking for a thief. Family members reported Belizaire was sitting on his bed when he was struck on the head with a blunt instrument and shot. A jury concluded that Belizaire was murdered by “unknown parties.” He was survived by his wife Sarah, his sons Wilson and Cornelius, and his relatives Cilla and Honore Burns.
The unknown/unidentified victim was murdered by lynching in April 1878. His body was found hanging in the neighborhood of Royville. Most details about his life and death remain unknown. Following discovery of the body, five or six white people reportedly surrendered and were taken into custody by law enforcement. The preliminary investigation into the lynching was delayed and on June 3, a mob of approximately 500 armed white people gathered and marched to the court in “military style” to demand the release of the suspects. According to one newspaper report, the local sheriff opened the prison doors “with a smile” ready to accommodate the demands of the white mob. Other reports indicate that the suspects were held for several months after the initial arrest. No one was ever held accountable for the murder of this unidentified black man.
The public is invited to attend the soil collection ceremony. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs since seating is limited.
Contact: EJI Lafayette Parish Co-Liaisons, Ola Prejean, 337-288-7047 or Ian Beamish, 443-839-4194.