A tragic end, memorialized
Sitting below the University of Colorado Building and across from Larimer Square sits a plaque detailing the gruesome lynching of Preston John Porter Jr. The plaque was a two-year-long project by the Equal Justice Initiative and The Colorado Lynching Memorial Project coalition.
These two groups work together to keep a record of racial terror that has taken place in the United States. The Colorado Lynching Memorial Project works to keep track of said crimes in Colorado specifically, the lynching of Preston Porter Jr being one of them.
In addition to the plaque in his memory, in October 2018 The Colorado Lynching Memorial project also held a soil collection ceremony, in which members of the coalition gathered soil from the site of Preston’s lynching, and soil from Denver to place into a ceremonial jar to remember Preston. Two jars were made, one is held in Denver, while the other is held at the Peace and Justice Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama.
Preston Porter Jr. came to Colorado from Kansas in 1900 to work on the Limon railroad with his father and brother. On Nov. 11, they were stopped by police and questioned about the murder of Lousie Frost, a young white girl who was found near Limon and died in her home on Nov. 8. The Porters denied any involvement but were arrested anyway. The police used coercive tactics in order to force a confession out of Preston: They stated that they would lynch his family if he did not confess. After Preston finally “confessed,” a public call for his lynching followed. Preston was seized off the public train by a white mob and publicly lynched in front of a crowd of more than 200 people. To this day, no one has been held accountable.
The Colorado Lynching Memorial website houses countless articles and newspaper clippings that detail the horrors of that day. “The great crowd shook with pure joy and excitement,” said one article. Another detailed horrifying words from Preston as he burned in front of the crowd, “Preston cried out ‘Good Lord forgive the people doing this, have mercy on Mr. Frost, and the little girl.’” To which the crowd happily responded, “Yes, pray for the girl, damn you and burn.”
What happened to Preston was, unfortunately, commonplace; an estimated 160 people were murdered by angry mobs in Colorado between 1859 and 1919. Despite this substantial number, only seven of these cases have been properly recorded. Preston Jr. being one of them. It’s unfortunate that this is how Preston’s story had to be told, however, it’s crucial not to forget the unimaginable terrors that Black Americans had to go through. The plaque is gruesome and leaves out no details. No matter how detailed, it still will never compare to the pain Preston and many others like him had to go through.
For more information on Preston and other lynchings that took place in Colorado, check out The Denver Lynching Project Memorial’s website where there are countless resources on the topic.