Descendants of both victims — the black man who was lynched and the white girl he was falsely accused of murdering — plan to be here for Sunday's prayer service.
The two women, one from Chicago, the other from Memphis, plan to go down to the river, rain or shine, to stand and pray with hundreds of others near the site of both brutal murders.
"We have to acknowledge and address the pain before we can begin to heal," said Laura Wilfong Miller. Her great-grandmother and Antonetty Rappel's mother were sisters.
Michele Lisa Whitney agrees. Her great-grandfather and Ell Persons were brothers.
"There were two tragedies," she said. "My great-uncle didn't get justice. Neither did that young lady. The only way to get through it is to face it, literally stare it in the face."
No one alive today can atone for the sins of 1917. Those of us who are here can only seek atonement for their legacy of fear, anger, hatred and violence.
That's the point of Sunday's prayerful commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Persons lynching.
"We will gather in a spirit of love, prayer, repentance, and healing," said Rev. Randall Mullins, a leader of the Memphis Lynching Sites Project.
"We want to make a strong statement together as the Memphis community. We know that facing up to the horrors of racial violence in our history is essential to the health of our community."
The prayer service will be held along the Wolf River near Summer Avenue, close to the site of both murders. It will begin at 3 p.m., about the time a lynch mob began forming on Monday, May 21, 1917.
Both women believe Sunday's commemoration is needed. Both want to participate.
"When I think about what happened then," Whitney said, "and I look at my life now, the opportunities and choices I'm able to make, I'm grateful for the struggle and sacrifices my ancestors made for me."
Miller wants to be there for her nine-year-old daughter. "We talk about race and equality and justice," Miller said.
"No one got justice then. We need to talk about that, acknowledge and understand that, so we can work to repair the damage and make sure it doesn't happen again."
David Waters, Commercial Appeal
May 20 2017 (all day)