In the late 1800s, when white supremacy was at an all-time high in this country, a white abolitionist by the name of John Brown put together a plan to start a liberation movement. He wanted to start this movement by first raiding Harpers Ferry ( Town in West Virginia that held military armory) to get the weapons necessary to fight the slave masters.
A free black man by the name of Heyward Shepherd who was an employee at the local railway station near Harpers Ferry, WV. was shot attempting to alert authorities of the arrival of John Brown and his men, making him the first person killed during the attempted insurrection.
In 1931, a monument in his honor was erected at the exact location the raid took place in Harper’s Ferry, WV. The debate over whether or not Shepherd should have been honored for such a small role in the overall picture has been an ongoing issue. The text on the memorial in Heyward Shepherd’s honor basically thanked him for being a “good negro” keeping in mind the idea for this monument was put forth by the “United daughter’s and son’s of Confederate veterans” so I doubt they really gave a shit about Hayward Shepherd or his family.
The Confederacy believed all Melanated people deserved to be lifelong slaves, so what made Hayward Shepherd so special? In my opinion, the white supremacist in charge used Hayward Shepherd’s death as a way to show the rest of black society what you should do in the face of revolution: Turn the other cheek.