Yesterday, EJI awarded $6000 in scholarships to the four winners of the 2015 Racial Justice Essay Contest in Brighton, Alabama. The contest was part of EJI’s racial history project, and the award ceremony followed EJI’s dedication of an historical marker in Brighton that documents the lynching of William Miller. An African American coal miner who sought better wages for black mine workers, Mr. Miller was murdered by a white mob in 1908. More than a hundred city officials and community members witnessed the unveiling and dedication of the marker on Sunday.
All high school students in the Brighton area were eligible to participate in the essay contest. Participants chose an historical event from EJI’s A History of Racial Injustice 2015 Calendar as the subject of a 750-word essay.
Hueytown High School students Brieonna Collins and Layla Tatum tied for first place, and were each awarded a $2250 scholarship. Ms. Collins, a junior, wrote about the Chicago riots of 1919. “It made me feel like my ancestors fought a lot for me,” she told WVTM-13 News. Ms. Tatum, a senior, wrote about the lynching of three black men in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1920. Both read their essays at the award ceremony.
The third place prize of $1000 went to Tayzha Parrish, a senior at Hueytown High, who wrote about the murder of civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson by an Alabama state trooper in 1965. Carmen Knight, a senior at Pleasant Grove High School, won fourth place and received $500 for her essay about the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
“These inspiring young winners did the courageous, impressive work of telling the truth about our nation’s history of racial injustice,” said EJI Director Bryan Stevenson. “That truth-telling, together with markers and memorials that change the American landscape, is critical to advance our understanding about the legacy of lynching, and that understanding will make healing and reconciliation possible.”