“Charlie Morris and Tom Carlson, Companions in Truth” by John Ashworth, Executive Director, Lynching Sites Project of Memphis
I am often emotionally pulled in many directions as I do the work of remembrance of the victims of our nation’s tortured domestic terrorism campaign from the end of the Civil War until about 1960. Along the way, all the people I work with in this effort leave a lasting impression that gets buried in my subconscious. Until that memory gets jarred in some significant way that memory remains among all the rest without much thought.
Matteo and I have been collaborating on this amazing story for almost a year. With the help of historians, archivists, and the energy and expertise of the people working with The Lynching Sites Project of Memphis, we have very nearly completed research on historical background of this tragedy. We have scouted and filmed almost all the major locations associated with this lynching, and have identified and located descendants of the families and individuals involved in the lynching and are now in the process of interviewing those willing to talk.
On May 22, 1917, at the Old Wolf River bridge, a black man was doused with gasoline and thrown alive into a bonfire. Five thousand people watched. The crowd was unusually large because of an announcement of the place and time in the Memphis press and the fact that a number of county schools had been let out early so students could attend.