Senator Dinniman (center left) looks on as Apostle Bobby Duncan, Founder and Pastor of Greater Deliverance Church in Coatesville (right), digs soil from the site of the lynching of Zachariah Walker to be preserved at a memorial. Also, pictured (far left) is Everett Butcher. Photo by Chris Baker Evans.
WEST CHESTER (October 13, 2020) – Youngsburg Road in South Coatesville would be named in memory of a black steelworker who was lynched and brutally murdered by a mob nearly 110 years ago, under legislation introduced by state Senator Andy Dinniman.
Senate Bill 1349 calls for renaming Youngsburg Road (State Route 3043) from the intersection of Modena Road to the southern border of South Coatesville Borough, “The Zachariah Walker Memorial Road.”
This road runs past a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum sign memorializing the murder of Walker.
“As a community, we need to confront the racism and the accompanying violence that the African-American community has experienced. The historic marker that was put up in 2011 adjacent to the lynching site, and my proposed naming of this road as the Zachariah Walker Memorial Road, is part of that needed understanding of our past,” Dinniman said. “Facing the evils of the past is part of how we build a new America of equality and hope for all.”
On the evening of August 13, 1911, Walker was dragged from his bed at Coatesville Hospital and burned alive by a white mob for allegedly shooting a white steel company police officer. According to reports, a crowd of thousands came out to witness the lynching and brutal murder of Walker.
News of the lynching spread across the nation and raised outrage. Prominent figures, including former President Theodore Roosevelt and Pennsylvania Governor John Tener made strong statements against it. In the aftermath, fifteen men and teenage boys were indicted for the involvement but were all acquitted.
Outrage at Walker’s lynching and the fact that it occurred in a northern state helped mobilize the NAACP’s national anti-lynching campaign. It also led to Pennsylvania’s anti-lynching law, which was finally passed in 1923 after nearly a decade of lobbying.
The lynching also played a strong role in the organization of the Coatesville Branch of the NAACP, which was launched in 1938 largely in response to local threats to lynch another black man, Bud Ward.
Interestingly, a portion of Youngsburg Road also runs past the site of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church where the Coatesville Branch of the NAACP was founded.