Carol Jenkins Memorial
December 6, 2017
Carol Jenkins, an Indiana born African American, was brutally stabbed to death on September 16, 1968 at the age of 20.
Jenkins was on her first day of her new job as an encyclopedia salesperson, when she and three other co-workers, were scheduled to sell in Martinsville, which at the time was a ‘sundown town’ (a that town enforces segregation between white and nonwhite races) named for the idea that minorities needed to stay indoors after sunset.
Soon after Jenkins started her route, two men began following, cat-calling, harassing, and throwing racial slurs at her. She then sought the help of Don and Norma Neal, a couple who lived on Jenkins’ sales route. Jenkins is noted to have yelled “Please let me in, I’ve got somebody following me.”
After calling the police, Norma then walked with Jenkins, trying to find her co-workers. When the two couldn’t find the others, Norma asked Jenkins to stay at their home, but she declined. Around 8:30 P.M., Jenkins said goodbye to the Neals and decided that she would head to the group’s meet-up location.
Approximately 15 to 30 minutes later, the same two men got out of their vehicle and began chasing her down. They held her arms behind her back and repeatedly stabbed her in the heart with a screwdriver. From the severity of the wounds, Jenkins died quickly after.
Since the incident, the town of Martinsville has had a racist stigma. This stereotype seemed to be forever ingrained in the history of Martinsville until the current mayor of Martinsville, Shannon Kohl, felt it necessary to change the racist view. Remembering who Jenkins was and what she went through, Kohl had a memorial stone placed in the city hall garden on November 2, 2017. Those in attendance said that the ceremony was very moving.
A family member of Jenkins, Laura Davis, said “These things are going to continue to happen until we come together as one, all striving for the same goal of unity, a better life for our children, a better life for our grandchildren and peace.”
The memorial for Carol Jenkins hopefully moves us in the right direction to do just that.