In a year, a group of religious leaders hopes to draw at least 5,000 Memphians to an area off Summer Avenue by the Wolf River where 3,000 gathered nearly a century ago as a man was burned alive.
The Lynching Sites Project of Memphis gathered Sunday, May 22, in a field by a Wolf River oxbow, 99 years to the day that Ell Persons was lynched at an event that was covered by local newspapers in advance.
Persons was accused of the murder, rape and decapitation of 16-year-old Antoinette Rappel in the same area. Persons was a woodcutter who lived in the area that today is west of where Summer Avenue turns into Bartlett Road.
He was captured by leaders of a mob that were stopping all trains into and out of the city. Persons was taken off a train where he was being guarded by local law enforcement officers returning him to the city for his trial on the charges.
Persons was charged because investigators claimed they had examined the eyes of Rappel after her death and said they saw a reflection of Persons’ forehead in her eyes, according to “Memphis In Black and White,” the 2003 book by historians Beverly G. Bond and Janann Sherman.
Photos of Persons’ severed and burned head made the front page of newspapers the day after the lynching, and the image was preserved on souvenir postcards as well.
“We are reclaiming life and reclaiming light,” Rev. Roslyn Nichols, pastor of Freedom’s Chapel Christian Church, said at the start of Sunday’s interfaith prayer service near the site of the lynching at the old Macon Road Bridge...
May 24 2016 (all day)