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Lake City post office will be renamed for SC town postmaster lynched 120 years ago

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Frazier Baker family

Lavinia Baker is pictured here with her five surviving children after the lynching of her husband Frazier B. Baker. She moved the family to the Boston area following the 1898 lynching. Library of Congress.

A post office in a small South Carolina town will soon bear the name of Frazier B. Baker, the first black postmaster of Lake City whose lynching death in 1898 garnered national and international attention.

The legislative effort to rename Lake City's post office on West Main Street was led by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia. It had the backing of South Carolina's entire Washington delegation.

President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on Dec. 21, just one day before the partial government shutdown began.

"This post office naming ensures the story of Frazier Baker will no longer be lost to history," Clyburn said in a statement. "As a former history teacher, I believe it is our duty to heed the words of George Santayana, 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'"

Around 1 a.m. on Feb. 22, 1898 an armed white mob approached Baker's house and the town’s post office, which they set ablaze in a plot to lure him outside to his death. Then, the mob started shooting.

"Come on, we might as well die running as standing," Baker reportedly told his wife, Lavinia, before he and his infant daughter, Julia, were shot and killed inside the burning house.

Baker's wife and their remaining five children narrowly escaped.

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"This will be a great honor for Postmaster Frazier B. Baker who gave his life serving the citizens of this community," Mayor of Lake City Lovith Anderson said. 

Baker's great-niece Dr. Fostenia Baker praised the bill's passage upon hearing it had become law. She has dedicated much of her life to speaking about her great-uncle's sacrifice and will soon publish a book about him and his place in history.

"We would be remiss if we didn't recognize that we are coming close to 121 years since the painful event against Frazier and the other members of the family," she said. "We, as a family, are glad that the recognition of this painful event finally happened. It's long overdue."

 Anderson, who is also black, said the renaming of the town's only post office will serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made for racial progress and equality.

"Let’s not ever forget cost of the opportunities we have today," Anderson said.

An estimated 185 African Americans were lynched in South Carolina between 1877 and 1950, according to a 2017 report from the Equal Justice Initiative.

A ceremony will be planned to dedicate the Postmaster Frazier B. Baker Post Office at a later date.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

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