The Inspiration for the Project
On April 26, 2018, the Equal Justice Initiative opened the first memorial to lynching victims in the nation, in Montgomery, Alabama. This memorial, along with the EJI’s Legacy Museum, is dedicated to understanding racial violence and its ongoing impact. Inspired by this project, Dr. Kathryn Tucker and students enrolled in her “History 2225: The African American Experience” courses at Troy University performed original primary research to document lynchings and related racial violence, primarily in Lower Alabama. Unexpectedly, several students discovered personal ties to lynching victims and their families through this research, powerfully highlighting the continuing impact that even past racial violence continues to have on families, communities, and the world today. This website documents our findings, through which we hope to further understanding of how racial violence shaped the world we live in and bring a measure of justice to individuals long denied.
The “Legacy of Lynching” website builds on the research and work of students studying African American history at Troy University. In addition to researching lynchings and racial violence in newspapers, court records, and other sources, students identified several lynching sites in Lower Alabama and collected soil from those locations to commemorate the victims. One of our soil collections is now part of the Equal Justice Initiative Community Remembrance Project, displayed at the Legacy Museum.
Students used their research, the other soil collections, and items that demonstrated the mindset and beliefs that contributed to racial violence, to create an exhibit, “Lynching in Lower Alabama,” that was on display in the Troy University Library throughout the summer and fall of 2018. This website builds on the “Lynching in Lower Alabama” exhibit and will continue to be updated with our ongoing findings.
In the spring of 2019, we expanded and updated the original exhibit with new information, sources, maps, and graphics. “Legacy of Lynching: Lynching in Lower Alabama” was displayed in the Troy University Library in Dothan throughout the summer and fall of 2019.
Students not only performed research and created an exhibit, but in the course of this project several students also unexpectedly uncovered parts of their own family history they hadn’t known about. None of us anticipated uncovering personal connections during our research, but at least three students found that they were related to lynching victims we studied, and another student’s family now owns a different victim’s property. Other students suspect ties to lynching victims based on names and locations, but have been unable to prove definitive connections. To us, these connections, more than any other aspect of our work, demonstrate with shocking clarity the ongoing impact of racial violence and the ways in which it has shaped people’s lives today. To find so many personal connections from such a small sample size of students sharply highlights the vast impact of each incident of violence- violence did not only impact the direct target, but also affected family members and larger communities in ways that are still felt today.
Our work has been featured in several media outlets, including NPR and Troy University publications. Check out the links below to learn more about our project:
“The Talk of Troy: A New Arts Leader & A Visit to the Memorial for Peace and Justice,” Kyle Gassoit, Troy Public Radio, 4 May 2018
“Troy history class studies lynching, gathers soil for Equal Justice Initiative exhibit,” Andy Ellis, Troy Today, 30 April 2018, https://today.troy.edu/news/troy-history-class-studies-lynching-gathers-soil-for-equal-justice-initiative-exhibit/
“Local Lynching Victims Honored by History Class,” Abhigya Ghimire, The Tropolitan, 12 April 2018, http://tropnews.com/local-lynching-victims-honored-by-history-class/
“Lynching Project,” TrojanVision News, 11 April 2018, TROY Trojan Vision, Antonio Reese, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QVW5Nfvjl4
Troy University, History 2225, Spring 2018:
Mya Bell, Kymesha Atwood, Keadra Avan, Antonio Reese, Ciara Jones, Deste’ne Shakespeare, Kernisha Chaney, Clarence Wilson, Tyanna Livingston, Tiarra Bailey, Maggie Cox, Jarrell Estell, D’Nyj Jones, Khalia Kennedy, Garrett Lawson, Bria Parker, Mia Thomas, Eral Wilson-Peters, Jalen Woolfolk
Troy University, History 2225, Fall 2018:
Aiyana Terry, Basia Anderson, Raquel Cole, Aaron Ferguson, Alexandria Fuller, Malik Howard, Adoria Hughes, Deandrea Nesbitt, Charles Stringer, Ladarrius Taylor, Zarean Williams
Acknowledgements and Thanks
We want to thank the family of Joe Green; the Equal Justice Initiative and Gabrielle Daniels; Dr. Christopher Shaffer, Dr. Marty Olliff, and Kelly Wilson of Troy University Libraries; Ruth Elder, Kelly Reeves, and the Wade Hall Postcard Collection; Dr. Allen Jones, Dr. Scout Blum, and the Troy University Division of History and Philosophy; and Courtney Pinkard and the Alabama Department of Archives and History for their help and support with this project.