Dear Friends, our life stories are important. History matters. Many would say memory is sacred and that real human community is not possible without it. We belong to one another as human beings through the common stories of our families, our nation and our local community.
Especially as we plan toward events from February through June 2017 we have many needs for volunteers in addition to the faithful force which is already at work. We need people who care about our mission in such areas as overall planning and coordination, writing, social media, publicity, research, supporting local high school students, engaging artists and musicians in the Project, engaging area religious leaders in the work, and fund-raising.
We recommend America's Original Sin by Jim Wallis and its study guide as important resources, especially for group study and discussion groups. Jim Wallis has been respected as a religious leader across the nation since the 1960s. He identifies as a white evangelical Christian but he has won the respect of Roman Catholics and Liberal Protestants as well as leaders from the Islamic and Jewish communities. Published in 2016 the book includes updated reflections on events in Ferguson, Missouri and Charleston, South Carolina.
The end of the Civil War marked a new era of racial terror and violence directed at black people in the United States that has not been adequately acknowledged or addressed in this country. Following emancipation in 1865, thousands of freed black men, women, and children were killed by white mobs, former slave owners, and members of the Confederacy who were unwilling to accept the anticipated end of slavery and racial subordination.
"EJI believes that truthfully acknowledging this history is vital to healing and reconciliation. As part of its effort to help towns, cities, and states confront and recover from tragic histories of racial violence and terrorism, EJI is joining with communities to install historical markers at the sites of lynchings..."
...In 2014, Northeastern University Law School’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, which seeks to uncover details of racially motivated murders during the Jim Crow era, began digging up documents on Hall’s case. Those documents were turned over to Northeastern’s School of Journalism, prompting a year-long investigation into the lynching and the government’s failure to see justice done.
On a Sunday afternoon in May, more than 100 people gathered on a grassy knoll sandwiched between a swamp and a construction company lot on the eastern outskirts of Memphis, Tennessee. Two high school juniors, Khamilla Johnson and Khari Bowman, stood before them and described how, exactly 99 years ago, a crowd at least 50 times as large had come to this very spot to watch the lynching of a black man named Ell Persons.
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.
On Tuesday, April 12  the American Inns of Court in Memphis, Tennessee invited me and other members of the Lynching Sites Project to come and share the story of the lynching of Ell Persons. Attorney Carla Peacher-Ryan and Dr. Tom Carlson promoted the work we do in the recovering of lynching sites in Shelby County, while Dr. Margaret Vandiver discussed the broader implications of the Persons lynching. I had the task of giving a speech detailing Persons lynching and the aftermath.
Last winter, with a scrawled list of the streets and landmarks mentioned in 100-year-old newspaper articles, I drove east through Memphis, past Shelby Farms, to what I believed might have been the place where a black woodchopper named Ell Persons was burned alive before thousands of spectators. I walked along the edge of the Wolf River, unsure whether this was the place. The river was narrower than I expected, and the bridge was newer than I thought it should have been.
As racial tensions continue to make headlines around the country, one group in Memphis has banded together to take action. Sharon Pavelda, a founding member of Responding to Racism, joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to explain the group’s push to mark the sites of lynchings that happened in the past – as a way to move forward.