YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — A rally was held to honor the life and legacy of Lillie Belle Allen 51 years to the day after she was shot and killed in the York Race Riots of 1969.
Ralliers marched through the city, to the spot where white gang members gunned her down.
Allen, 27, was shot and killed near the railroad tracks on North Newberry Street, at a time not unlike what America is seeing now decades later, across the country.
“Fifty-one years ago, Lillie Belle’s life was taken here,” said Allen’s younger sister, Gladys Mosley.
Mosley spoke at the spot where her sister’s life ended, and said hate is a consuming fire — a fire that struck her family more than half a century ago.
“[My parents] saw their daughter being shot down and laying there asking for help, and they couldn’t help,” Mosley said.
On that hot July evening in 1969, Allen had gotten out of the family car, which had stalled, with her hands up, to take over driving. White gang members, fueled by weeks of racial tension, soon gathered around the distressed black family, and opened fire — killing her.
“She shed her blood here on this street,” Gladys said.
Those same streets, more than half a century later, were filled Tuesday with commemoration and an honoring of Allen’s life and legacy.
“It shouldn’t matter how many years ago it was, the life and the name should never die,” said organizer, Dr. Felicia Dennis. “The issue never stopped, they are just doing it in different ways now.”
Jamiel Alexander said this rally and celebration of life is a chance for him to honor his elders.
“Learn from them but at the same time take the torch and be keepers of the flame and keep it moving,” Alexander said. “If you remember, you learn, you educate the generations to come so it won’t happen.”
“Her legacy will never be forgotten as it was for decades,” Mosley said, through tears.
Officer Henry Schaad was also killed during the ’69 riots. More than 30 years later, in 2001, several white men including former York Mayor Charlie Robertson were charged with Allen’s murder.
Robertson was later acquitted, while two other men were found guilty of second-degree murder.