“Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror” is a project by Equal Justice Initiative. The project aims to increase education about racial injustice. The following website was launched this morning with the support of Google. It brings extensive research on the history of lynching to the public: http://lynchinginamerica.eji.org. This website is an interactive experience. Steele says it allows one to “both hear and feel the impact of this dark time in history on generations of families” (2017).
America’s history of racial injustice is as horrifying as it is hypocritical.
It amazes me that a nation could claim freedom as its most treasured value and simultaneously support enslavement and lynching. By living in this country, we share a responsibility to learn about its history. One picture from the website contained this quotation: “You’re not disconnected from that history just because it happened 50, 60 ,100 years ago. It’s our history. It is American history” (Stevenson). The people doing the lynching were racist criminals, yes. But they were also Americans. We must redeem ourselves as Americans. To move on from the violence of our past, we have to learn about that violence first. One speaker from “Uprooted” stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. We can’t sleep until innocent black boys can walk without fear down the streets of any town in America.”
Luz Myles, Phoebe Dedman, and Shirah Dedman are all granddaughters of Thomas William Miles. Thomas was African American. He owned a business and was the breadwinner for his family. As racist white southerners of the time would say: “He dared to succeed.” In 1912, he was arrested. The charge was allegedly sending insulting notes to a white woman. The police report only read these words: “Thomas- suspect.” But his granddaughters ask, “What was he suspect of?” I ask, “What grounds was the accusation based on? Where was the evidence?” The jury found Thomas to be innocent due to a lack of evidence. This is surprising for the time period. Often, jury members were racist themselves. The police released Thomas out of the back door of the prison. A mob awaited. Accident? I think not.
The mob lynched Thomas that day.
But the word ‘lynched’ doesn’t quite paint the picture fully. Visualize this. The mob tied a rope around Thomas’s neck. They attached the rope to a tree. While Thomas dangled from the limb- gurgling, choking, and begging for one last breath of air, the mob shot multiple bullets into him. Thomas, an innocent man trying to provide for his family had his life stolen from him. Justin Steele for Google wrote, “Thomas Miles was one of more than 4,000 African Americans lynched in the U.S. between 1877 and 1950.” Thomas’s wife began work, and his son of six moved to live with his grandparents.
Families were torn apart, businesses were destroyed, and history was lost because of lynching (paraphrased from “Uprooted”). The injustices committed by racist white southerners at this time were unimaginable. Police officers often turned a blind eye. This led to a lack of accountability for racist criminals. What is particularly infuriating to me is that some of this racism still exists today. And while there may be some debate surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, unequal treatment of minorities by the police still occurs. Please check out the website and the videos and photos attached. Remember, ignorance and racism are friends, but education is an enemy to both.
“Bryan Stevenson” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BWTh4p6QEk&feature=youtu.be
“Anthony Ray Hinton” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYt0Z3Z7NqY&feature=youtu.be
ATL Roundtable Photos: http://bit.ly/2rSCLxQ [credit: James Pray for Google]
LA Roundtable Photos: http://bit.ly/2qJmbwp [credit: Jerome Shaw for Google]
NYC Roundtable Photos: http://bit.ly/2rawPgf [credit: Bernard Smalls for Google]
Link to Black Lives Matter related article: http://www.luxelifeatl.com/down-with-labels/