More than a century after 7 black men were lynched, an Indiana teen tries to correct injustice

Mount Vernon, Indiana – Sophie Klopenberg walked into a lecture, said her name, and without saying another word, she got a standing ovation.

What did a 17-year-old do to deserve such an honor in Posey County, Indiana? He rectified an injustice which took 144 years to build.

In 1878, following a rape allegation, seven black men were beaten to death and four of them were hanged directly outside the county courthouse, in which they never set foot. This was the biggest lynching in the history of the state. Yet the whole incident was largely forgotten—until Cloppenberg heard about it.

She began in the courtyard, looking for a plaque or any mention. She said there was no public acknowledgment of what happened.

“I’m sure people don’t want to remember because it’s hard to remember hard things, but it’s unacceptable to forget,” Cloppenberg told CBS News.

It is also unrealistic to expect that others care about the issue as much as he did. Posey County is over 95% white. Standing a reminder to a racist past wasn’t a high priority around here.

But that didn’t stop Klopenberg from appealing to county commissioners. frequently.

Commission chairman Bill Collins said Cloppenberg was very passionate about the issue.

“You’d probably be hard pressed to find a lot of seniors in high school anywhere in the country who would be willing to do something like this,” Collins told CBS News.

There are fewer who can be successful, he said.

After a standing ovation, Klopenberg thanked his community.

“I’m proud of Posey County, Indiana, and the beautiful people here, who held tough conversations and gave a solid voice to their minorities,” she said. “Thank You.”

This week, thanks to that diplomatic touch, 144 years after that crowd in the center of Red America gathered in the square, another crowd gathered at the same spot. This time to see Cloppenberg unveiling a memorial bench and history marker that formally acknowledged the past and celebrated progress.

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