FORSAKEN – How I met “Virgie” / by Ashley Brim

Virginia Christian was executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia on August 16th, 1912, the day after her seventeenth birthday.  This is the true story that inspired AN ACT OF TERROR. 

I first heard about Virginia Christian in February 2016 when my dad sent me a book called FORSAKEN by Ross Howell Jr.  Howell’s deeply researched historical novel follows 18-year-old reporter Charles Mears as he covers his first murder case, the trial of Virginia Christian for the murder of Ida Belote in Hampton, Virginia. 

As I read, I became as obsessed with the grave injustice Virgie faced as the book’s protagonist is.  My mind reeled.  How did this happen in an American courtroom?  Why haven’t I ever heard of a 16-year-old girl who died in the electric chair?  When did it stop being legal to execute children?  What has been done to make our institutions more fair so that something like this never happens again?

I hope that Virgie’s story will spark a conversation about the shameful parts of our history--Jim Crow, lynching, terror, and racism--that we must squarely face in order to honestly build a society in which there is true equality.