Corbin City Commission approves proclamation remembering 1919 race riot
October 30 marks 100 years since the race riots that sparked Corbin’s reputation as a “sundown town” for minorities, especially African-Americans occurred.
At its regular monthly meeting Monday night, the Corbin City Commission took a step toward repairing that reputation by unanimously authorizing Mayor Suzie Razmus to sign a proclamation recognizing the events of Oct. 30, 1919, when an angry mob, led by Steve “Pistol Pete” Rogers took to the streets of Corbin in an effort to round up the approximately 200 African-American residents and force them to leave town after a white man had been mugged by two black men.
The proclamation noted that a number of white Corbin residents attempted to protect their black friends and neighbors.
And Rogers paid for his crime. In 1920, he was convicted of confederating and served time in the state penitentiary.
In an effort to acknowledge that past and move forward, the proclamation, which has been framed and will hang inside the main entrance to city hall, declares Corbin to be a welcoming community and that the week of Oct. 26 will be the “Week of Diversity.”
Members of The Sunup Initiative have been working since January to promote racial justice in Corbin and beyond.
“I think it is amazing,” said Sunup Corbin member Grace Moses, who attended the meeting Monday. “I think we have come a long way.”
Before the proclamation is hung up at city hall, it will be out and about in the community for public viewing.
Razmus said it will be on display during the annual Ghost Tour event at the Corbin Public Library Saturday night.
It will also be at the remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the incident Wednesday at Second and Main.
The event, which will feature an exhibit detailing that night, including first-hand accounts, will begin at 5 p.m.
“It will include a special installation honoring those that were forced to leave our city,” Sunup Initiative officials stated.
Moses said this does not mark the end of the group’s efforts.
“The next step is to get more people coming in,” Jones said noting the group meets the second Monday of each month at Corbin Middle School.
More information is available on the Sunup Initiative Facebook page.
“We just want to keep the conversation going,” Moses said.
In other business Monday, the commission:
• Accepted the bid of $118,071.21 to upgrade the Corbin 911 system.
Just one bid, with two options, was made by Computer Information Systems out of Skokie, Illinois.
Commissioner Trent Knuckles, who served on the budget committee, noted the bid was substantially less than the $192,000 that had been budgeted for the project.
• Discussed the possibility of hosting a New Years Eve event in downtown Corbin.
Mark Shepherd, owner of Shep’s Place, and Josh Brock, owner of Austin City Saloon asked about the possibility, noting that London did something similar and drew a substantial crowd.
Knuckles asked Corbin Downtown Director Aaron Sturgill whether he had sufficient time to plan an event for New Year’s Eve, suggesting that it include a ball drop.
“Why can’t we have something like a St. Patty’s Day Bash?” Razmus asked, noting it wouldn’t compete with London’s event. “That way we are good partners of our community.”
• Heard from resident Fran Jones, who lives at 824 Culver Street concerning the state of a neighboring property.
Jones said she has repeatedly complained about the property to the code enforcement office, but little to nothing has been done.
“What we have is just a nasty mess,” Jones said, explaining there is junk encroaching onto her property, and approximately 37 cats and kittens going in and out of it.
“We cannot use our deck because of the stench,” Jones said.
“I have done everything except start legal action,” she added.
City Attorney Bob Hammons asked the commission to approve him beginning a title search on the property to determine who exactly owns it, and who else may have liens filed against it.
“That way, we will know who to properly sue,” Hammons said, emphasizing to Jones that it will be a lengthy process.
“This is not something that is going to happen overnight,” Hammons said.