Yesterday at North Meadow Friends, Jimmie Ilachild led a (two hour) discussion about racial terror, lynching, and his work with the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, where he lives most of the time.
I learned a number of things . EJI has published an excellent report on the subject, Lynching in America. I learned that lynching is not necessarily done by hanging. “Lynching–an extrajudicial execution carried out by a mob, often by hanging or other ways of execution.” Wikipedia
I learned 4,000 men, women and children were lynched in the 12 states where most lynchings occurred. After learning that, it was easy to understand that one of the main driving forces behind the migration of black people from the south was this widespread racial terrorism, not just the attraction of jobs in the industrial North, as I had been taught in school.
I learned this terror is STILL present in the south. Beyond the sustained assault by police on people of color that continues today, this widespread underlying terror was illustrated by Jimmie’s story of some black people living along the route of the march to Montgomery going into their homes when the commemorative march went past, because they were STILL afraid that even watching such an event would get them into trouble.
All of this makes it easy to understand why the Equal Justice Initiative is working so hard to raise awareness about this. Besides the published report, Jimmie also spoke movingly about his participation in the soil recovery project:
“To create greater awareness and understanding about racial terror lynchings, and to begin a necessary conversation that advances truth and reconciliation, EJI is working with communities to commemorate spaces where lynchings took place with memorials and historical markers. This week, a project to collect soil from every location where a person was lynched will begin with Alabama, where volunteers will collect soil from lynching sites across the state.
This soil collection project is intended to bring community members closer to the legacy of lynching and to contribute to the effort to build a lasting and more visible memory of our history of racial injustice. Jars of collected soil will be part of an exhibit that will reflect the history of lynching and express our generation’s resolve to confront the continuing challenges that racial inequality creates.”