The Associated Press (al.com)
Community organizers hope to install a historic marker outside the Lee County Courthouse to raise awareness about the lynchings of Black people by white mobs in a campaign of racial terror.
Ashley Brown told Opelika Auburn News she co-founded the Lee County Remembrance Project to better understand what happened to four Black men who were killed in Lee County. They were among 360 people lynched in Alabama, and more than 4,400 killed across 20 states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950, according to the Equal Justice Initiative. Two of them, cousins John Moss and George Hart, were hanged by white mobs in the 1880s, according to research the organizers did in partnership with the initiative, an organization that founded the nation’s first memorial to lynching victims.
Another man, Charles Humphries, was shot more than 40 times by a white mob in 1900. Two years later, Samuel Harris was taken by more than 125 white men and shot to death in 1902. The mob also seized his pregnant wife, but it’s unclear what happened to her.
“We wanted to learn their stories not only for us to understand, but also to better educate the community and let them know what occurred to these men,” Brown said.
Brown and Oliva Nichols, the project’s co-founder, are working to erect a historic marker that tells these stories. They recently met with city officials about the idea, they said, and hope to have the marker installed outside the courthouse this spring.
“As a mental health counselor, one of my focuses is trauma, not only in how it is passed but how it is passed down from generation to generation,” Brown said. “Addressing that trauma means we have to acknowledge what happened.”
The women also have been working on educational materials for the community, and they want to get an official day of remembrance for the victims of the racially motivated killings.
“We talk about the past, and we use it to inform our future,” Nichols said. “This is part of our past, and this is a part that we often neglect because it’s difficult, it’s hard to talk about, but that means it’s especially important to talk about.”