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Museum honoring lynching victims opens in 2018

The memorial will eventually record terror lynchings in every county throughout the United States

Museum will honor upwards of 4,000 Black men, women, children victims burned alive, shot to death, drowned, beaten to death by White mobs between 1877 and 1950 in 12 southern states

By FREDERICK H. LOWE, Contributing Writer

MONTGOMERY, Ala., — The Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners denied fair and just treatment in the legal system, will open in 2018 the first national museum to African-American victims of lynchings.

Memorial to Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhee, three Black men who were lynched on June 15, 1920 in Duluth, Minn. Courtesy EJI

The memorial will be located on six acres in Montgomery, Ala., where EJI is headquartered, the organization said in its 2016 annual report. EJI has reported that nearly 4,000 Black men, women, and children were lynched, burned alive, shot to death, drowned and beaten to death by White mobs between 1877 and 1950 in 12 southern states.

The memorial, however, will eventually record terror lynchings in every county throughout the United States. For example, on June 15, 1920, a mob lynched three Black men—Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhee—for allegedly raping a White woman in Duluth, Minn., according to the book “The Lynchings in Duluth,” published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

The woman claimed she had been attacked. A physician who examined her said nothing indicated she had been sexually assaulted. In 2003, Duluth erected a memorial honoring Clayton, Jackson, and McGhee.

Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith were African-American men who were lynched on Aug. 7, 1930, in Marion, Ind., after being dragged from jail and beaten by a mob for allegedly murdering a White couple.

A third person, James Cameron, 16, narrowly escaped murder by the mob; he was helped by the intervention of an unknown woman and returned to the safety of his jail cell. He was later convicted and sentenced as an accessory before the fact. After dedicating his life to civil rights activism, he was pardoned in 1999 by the state of Indiana and went on to found the Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee, Wis., before his death on June 11, 2006.

The local chapter of the NAACP and the State’s Attorney General struggled to indict some of the Marion lynch mob, but no one was ever charged for the murders of Shipp and Smith, or the attack on Cameron.

Lynchings of Black men were mostly carried out to protect the perceived sanctity of White women.

Otis Price of Perry, Fla., was murdered by a White mob on Aug. 9, 1938, for walking past a White farmer’s home while the farmer’s wife was bathing in an open doorway, according to EJI files.

Thousands of volunteers for EJI have collected soil from over 300 lynching sites as part of the organization’s Community Remembrance Project. Each jar of soil exhibited at EJI bears the name of a man, woman, or child lynched in America, and the date and location of the lynching.

EJI recently released a study about black military veterans targeted for lynching, titled, “Lynching in America: Targeting Black Veterans.” It builds on a 2015 EJI report, “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror.”

Courtesy New America Media. Originally published by the North Star News.

New America Media is the first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2,000 ethnic news organizations in the U.S. More than 57 million ethnic adults connect to each other, to home countries and to America through 3,000+ ethnic media -- the fastest growing sector of American journalism.

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