Jars of soil from the documented sites of five lynchings that took place in Anderson County between 1894 and 1911 have taken their place within a collection of jars from sites across the Southeastern United States at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.
A group from Anderson University, along with Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts and several other community members, traveled to Montgomery March 17 to deliver the jars as part of an event with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).
“Today is about remembrance. We will remember these five men. Tomorrow is about reconciliation, building the beloved community Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about,” said Dr. Stuart Sprague of the Anderson Area Remembrance and Reconciliation Initiative, in a ceremony marking the donation of the jars.
“Because of the Equal Justice Initiative, we can all learn from what has happened. You know the quote ‘if you don’t learn from history, you’re doomed to repeat it.’ I think we need to even go a step further than that. If we don’t learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it, but now is a time to act in such a way that we will not repeat it. We can’t just learn from it and not mobilize our hearts and thoughts, and come together as a people and work towards a better America,” said Anderson University’s Vice President for Diversity, Community and Inclusion, Dr. James Noble. “This is an opportunity for us as a community to learn about what has happened and be able to create some initiatives and programs that call our community to come together as one, to love each other and love God the way God loved us.”
Bobby Rettew, professor of media communication in the Anderson University College of Arts and Sciences, along with a small team of students, is creating a documentary about the lynchings that will come out in late spring.
“I was so pleased to see our students taking a leadership role in this event. They not only captured so much content for our documentary, they also spent lots of time visiting with many of those who traveled. I could see the impact from this trip on their faces, hear it in the words they shared and within their reflections as they have set out to create a series of final videos to best tell this story,” Rettew said.
Details, video and images from the March 17 ceremony can be found here.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened to the public on April 26, 2018, is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence. More information can be found on their website museumandmemorial.eji.org. Videos and photos from the presentation can be viewed online at the AAR&RI website.