EJI Invites Volunteers to Commemorate Lynching Victims at Soil Collection Event on May 7


In 1893, a white mob stormed the jail in Carrollton, Alabama, and lynched Paul Hill, Paul Archer, Will Archer, Emma Fair, and Ed Guyton, four Black men and a Black woman who had been accused of setting a fire that destroyed a mill and gin house. They did not resist when arrested, insisting that they were innocent and would be cleared quickly. The mob entered the jail with no resistance from law enforcement and slaughtered all five victims in a hail of gunfire. As the great anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells wrote in her investigation of the lynching, the unarmed Black people “in their bolted prison cells could do nothing but suffer and die.” Community volunteers assigned to this lynching site were given detailed information about the lynching before they traveled to Carrollton and collected soil for each victim as part of EJI’s Community Remembrance Project.

EJI’s Community Remembrance Project is part of our campaign to recognize the victims of lynching by collecting soil from lynching sites and creating a memorial that acknowledges the horrors of racial injustice. Community members are invited to join EJI staff to collect soil from sites throughout Alabama next month.

Between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States. Lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized Black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. EJI has documented more than 4000 racial terror lynchings in 12 Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950 — several hundred of these victims were lynched in Alabama.

Lynching profoundly impacted race relations in this country and shaped the geographic, political, social, and economic conditions of African Americans in ways that are still evident today. Terror lynchings fueled the mass migration of millions of Black people from the South into urban ghettos in the North and West in the first half of the 20th century. Lynching created a fearful environment in which racial subordination and segregation were maintained with limited resistance for decades. Most critically, lynching reinforced a legacy of racial inequality that has never been adequately addressed in America.

Public acknowledgment of mass violence is essential not only for victims and survivors, but also for perpetrators and bystanders who suffer from trauma and damage related to their participation in systematic violence and dehumanization. Yet most lynchings, and their victims, have never been publicly recognized.

To create greater awareness and understanding about racial terror lynchings, and to begin a necessary conversation that advances truth and reconciliation, EJI is working with communities to commemorate and recognize the traumatic era of lynching by collecting soil from lynching sites across Alabama.

We invite volunteers to join us in Montgomery, Alabama, on May 7, at 10:00 a.m. for a program that will educate guests about racial terror lynchings in Alabama. Guests will be assigned lynching sites, provided with information about the lynching that occurred at their assigned site, and directed to communities across the state to collect soil. Volunteers will return the filled jars to EJI staff and will have an opportunity to share and record reflections on their experience. Advance registration is required. If you are interested in participating, please email Kiara Boone at [email protected] before May 2.

This soil collection project is intended to bring community members closer to the legacy of lynching and to contribute to the effort to build a lasting and more visible memory of our history of racial injustice. Jars of collected soil will be part of an exhibit that will reflect the history of lynching and express our generation’s resolve to confront the continuing challenges that racial inequality creates.