Oliver Clasper, a friend of the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis, has had his photographs incorporated into an article "Focusing on the Hidden Horror of American Lynchings,” published in The Atlantic’s web magazine City Lab.
Ollie gives credit to the Equal Justice Initiative, NAACP, and the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis, with particular note to Clarence Christian.
An empty trestle bridge spans a grey river. White-washed doors lean on the side of a barn. Telephone poles and a tin shed frame a half-mowed ravine.
Unseen in these otherwise mundane images of the American South: visual evidence for the acts of racial terror that once unfolded there.
“It seems that many Americans, especially white Americans, either don't know much about lynchings or are reticent to discuss it,” Oliver Clasper, a London-born photographer and journalist, says via email. Clasper has set out to provoke a conversation with a project he calls The Spaces We Inherit. In photographs and interviews, he is documenting historic sites where African Americans were terrorized and murdered by white neighbors, and how individuals living in the orbit of this buried past are affected by it today.
With logistical support from the NAACP and the Equal Justice Initiative, as well as research assistance from the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis and others, Clasper has pinpointed and photographed 10 sites so far, in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. That is only a small fraction of the 4,000-plus known lynchings that have occurred throughout the U.S. since the 19th century. But Clasper’s selections testify to the breadth of circumstances and historic moments in which racially-fueled, extra-judicial killings occurred—and the silence and obscurity into which they’ve often been cast.
Some of the images speak to little-known lynchings flung far back in history, like one of a boarded-up brick building in Memphis that stands where a man named Lee Walker was hanged on a telephone pole by a mob in 1893. Others address incidents that are extremely well-known; two images of a Mississippi barn capture where the teenaged Emmett Till was murdered by two white men in 1955. Another photograph inscribes an even more recent act of terror: the 1981 beating and hanging of Michael Donald in Mobile, Alabama....