On behalf of the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis, we write to share our profound distress over the totally unwarranted, unnecessary, and theatrical murder of George Floyd. We stand with our brothers and sisters protesting in the streets over this egregious, outrageous murder.
We write to join the growing multitude of voices across this country urging that justice be served and police officers arrested and tried for murder, and we commend the Mayor of Minneapolis for coming out in support of the arrest of the officers who acted with such wanton disregard for human life.
We are an organization in Memphis, Tennessee, part of a national network working to “turn the light of truth” on racial terror killings throughout our nation’s history. We concentrate on uncovering the history and memorializing the victims of racial terror violence in our own community, but through our work, we have learned that the racial terror lynchings of the late 1800s and first half of the 20th century never really abated – they merely morphed into other extra-judicial violence against black people – the latest victim of which is George Floyd.
After the particularly brutal lynching of Ell Persons in Memphis in 1917, James Weldon Johnson, a national organizer for the NAACP, came to Memphis to make a report, and after viewing the charred ground where Ell Persons was burned to death in front of a crowd of thousands, in a carnival atmosphere, Johnson wrote, "I tried to balance the sufferings of the miserable victim against the moral degradation of Memphis, and the truth flashed over me that in large measure the race question involves the saving of black America's body and white America's soul."
We believe that this work of saving bodies and souls is ongoing and that bringing the police officers who murdered George Floyd to justice is a vital part of this work. We stand ready to help you and your community, in any way we can. We would be happy to share what we’ve learned in doing this work. If our justice system is to mean anything at all, it must work for all the people.
The Board, Staff, and Community of the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis