We are pleased and excited to share with you the news that John Ashworth will begin work on January 1 for the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis as Project Manager for the May 21, 2017 centennial commemoration of the lynching of Ell Persons. John’s contract will extend through June 2017.
For the past few years Mr. Ashworth has served as Chairman of the Elbert Williams Memorial Committee in Brownsville, Tennessee. Mr. Elbert Williams was a lynching victim in 1940 as a result of his leadership in organizing a chapter of the NAACP in Brownsville (Haywood County). He is considered by many to be the first person in the modern civil rights movement to be killed for his civil rights work. On June 20, 2016, the 76th Anniversary of Mr. Williams death, the committee organized a soil collection from the site of Mr. Williams lynching on the Hatchie River. A public ceremony was held at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, Brownsville, Tennessee and the collected soil was presented by descendants of Mr. Williams to representatives from Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative to be a part of the National Lynching Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama.
John Ashworth is also the founder of the Dunbar Carver Museum in Brownsville, a new museum there dedicated to African American history. He is also a founding member of the Geneva Miller Historical Society of Brownsville, which was responsible for the research and dedication of a Tennessee Civil War Trails Marker in the City of Brownsville with the names of over 200 African Americans from Haywood County who served in the Civil War. These projects have been a part of his lifelong interest in African-American history and black political involvement in small rural communities.
Lynching in America, the report by the Equal Justice Institute, reports at least 70 lynchings occurred in six West Tennessee counties between 1865 and 1950. We are aware of only two of these counties, Haywood and Shelby, where work has begun to memorialize the victims of these crimes. John’s experience in Haywood and adjoining counties with his work now spreading to Memphis will support new initiatives in other counties to shine the light of truth on these buried histories.
Mr. Ashworth’s latest career in African American history and black political empowerment was preceded by careers in the military and in management for three airlines. He served 21 years in the Army with specialization in administration and personnel management. He is a Vietnam veteran. His work at Valujet, Eastern and Northwest Airlines included management of personnel, budget and other resources. He also brings extensive experience in the use of computers in management including database, desktop publishing, and social media programs. He is the creator and webmaster of a number of websites related to African American historical preservation, including:
- and elbertwilliamsfirsttodie.com
John brings both a warm way of relating and a no-nonsense, direct style of management and communication. During our interviews with him he was clear that “anytime there are misunderstandings about anything, including race and perceived racism, the issues need to be out on the table and talked about openly.”