Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring attends meeting on Leesburg lynching memorials

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who last month admitted to wearing blackface while in college, attended a Thursday night meeting about lynching memorials in Leesburg.

"I've already talked about that," he said in response to a question about the controversy. "The reason I'm here tonight is to be a part of a dialogue. I think it's really important that all throughout Virginia we talk about our history honestly and completely, and when I heard that there was a conversation about lynching in my own community, I wanted to be a part of it."

The event, organized by four George Mason University graduate students, was held to discuss the placement of historical markings at the sites of three Loudon County lynchings that occurred between 1880 and 1902.

It's still being determined when the three historical markers will be put in place. Local leaders said they'll be located near the intersection of Catoctin and Market Streets, along the W&OD Trail in downtown Leesburg, and just south of the Point of Rocks Bridge in Loudon County.

"We have to have these conversations," said one of the event's organizers, Tanja S. Thompson. "It's not just about the lynching memorials. That's just one piece of it."

Thompson added that she hopes Thursday night's conversation leads others to learn about race and history in a community where a Confederate soldier statue sits in front of the courthouse, in a county where KKK fliers were recently distributed, and in a state where both the governor and attorney general have had well-documented and racially-charged issues of their own.

"What I'm doing right now is listening to a lot of Virginians about how we might be able to use this focus on race in Virginia to really take concrete steps to unravel the ongoing institutional and systemic racism that we continue to have," Herring said in response to another question about his own past. "I'm listening to those ideas and things that I may be able to do to address them."