More communities throughout the country are joining with EJI to participate in our Lynching Marker Project. The project is part of EJI’s effort to recognize the victims of lynching by erecting historical markers that acknowledge the horrors of racial terror lynchings.
EJI has documented more than 4000 racial terror lynchings in 12 Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950. The lynching of African Americans during this era was a form of racial terrorism intended to intimidate black people and enforce racial hierarchy and segregation.
Despite the lasting legacy of racial terrorism and injustice in this country, there is an astonishing absence of efforts to acknowledge, discuss, or address lynching in these states. Many of the communities where lynchings took place have gone to great lengths to erect markers and monuments that memorialize the Civil War, the Confederacy, and historical events during which local power was violently reclaimed by white Southerners. But there are very few monuments or memorials that address the history and legacy of lynching in particular or the struggle for racial equality more generally, and most of the victims of lynching have never been publicly acknowledged.
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.
Most recently, EJI unveiled an historical marker that documents the lynchings of seven victims in Letohatchee, Alabama, and recognizes 14 documented lynchings that took place in Lowndes County. Dozens participated in the dedication ceremony at Rehobeth Missionary Church in Letohatchee, braving the rain to pray and reflect together on the history of racial terrorism in Lowndes County.
The dedication ceremony featured the winners of the Racial Justice High School Essay Contest, which was open to all high school students living in or attending school in Lowndes County. The first place prize of $3000 was awarded to Central High School 10th grader Yamiri B. Mants for his essay, “Things Remain the Same.”
Another lynching marker will be erected next month in Abbeville, South Carolina.
EJI believes in the power of “truth and reconciliation” to address oppressive histories by helping communities to honestly and soberly recognize the pain of the past. As more communities join in this effort to concretize the experience of racial terror through discourse, memorials, markers, and other acts of reconciliation, more are overcoming the shadows cast by these grievous events.