State Historical Marker Honoring Hawthorne Unveiled

   Written by on August 24, 2017 at 10:56 am

State Historical Marker 2 State Historical MarkerVICTORIA – The name Nathaniel Lee Hawthorne has been talked about and discussed often during recent events such as the Voter Registration Re-enactment March in Lunenburg, as his work to help with the fight for rights of African Americans in Lunenburg County is part of the local history.

A recent unveiling of the State Historical Marker to honor him took place in the town. The marker highlights the career of this civil rights leader who chaired NAACP’s Lunenburg Co. branch and led efforts to desegregate schools, register voters, and secure African American representation in local government.

The marker reads, “Nathaniel Lee Hawthorne (1923-1975) Nathaniel Lee Hawthorne, civil rights leader, campaigned for racial and social justice for the people of Southside Virginia. A native of Lunenburg County and a World War II veteran, he conducted his work despite death threats and other attempts at intimidation. Operating from the “Freedom House” in Victoria, Hawthorne chaired the Lunenburg branch of the NAACP from 1965 to 1974 and was a coordinator of the Virginia Students’ Civil Rights Committee. He led efforts to desegregate schools, register voters, gain equal access to restaurants and stores, and secure African American representation in local government. In 1965, he organized a voting rights march that passed along this route.”

A state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources that recalls the career of civil rights leader Nathaniel Lee Hawthorne, who resided in Lunenburg County, will be dedicated this weekend in the Town of Victoria.

The ceremony to unveil the marker was held Saturday, August 12, at 10 a.m., at the marker’s location at 722 Mecklenburg Avenue, Victoria. The ceremony and dedication included speakers, the Rev. Ray Smith, the Rev. C.L. Hobbs Jr., the Rev. Violet Oliver, Shirley Lee, William Monnie, Minister Sandra Jones, and Dr. Jennifer Loux of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

The Peoples Community Center, located at 1021 Tidewater Avenue in Victoria, will hosted a reception after the event.

A Lunenburg County native born in 1923, Nathaniel Lee Hawthorne “campaigned for racial and social justice for the people of Southside Virginia,” the marker states. A veteran of World War  II, Hawthorne endured “death threats and other attempts at intimidation” for his civil rights work, according to the marker.

He operated the “Freedom House” in Victoria and chaired the Lunenburg branch of the NAACP from 1965 to 1974. He also served as a coordinator of the Virginia Students’ Civil Rights Committee.

In addition to leading efforts to desegregate schools, register voters, and other civil rights initiatives, in 1965 Hawthorne organized a voting rights march that passed along Mecklenburg Avenue, where the sign stands.

The marker commemorating Hawthorne was approved for manufacture and installation earlier this year by the Board of Historic Resources, which is authorized to designate new historical markers. The sign’s manufacturing cost is covered by the marker’s sponsor, the Voter Registration March Re-Enactment Committee.

Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation.

Currently there are more than 2,500 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority.

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