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.
Virgie’s story is as bleak as it is true and it is undeniably bleak. But I believe there is a great deal of hope in telling it, in sharing it. If our nation and our institutions are to be healed, we must examine stories like Virgie’s. In school we learn that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves then we skip to the civil rights movement and celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. We never learn about the thousands of racial terror lynchings of African Americans in the South between Reconstruction and World War II. Or that the rise of legal executions in the South correlates directly with the decline in lynchings in the region. We don’t talk about that civil war. Until we do, our understanding of our past is hollow.
Racial injustice endures because we seem determined to remain blind to its presence in the bedrock of our institutions. Once you encounter a story like Virgie’s, the truth is impossible to ignore. I can’t think of a better medium than film to undertake the herculean task of bringing this history to life.