BACKGROUND: The genesis of this project was a newspaper story from Nashville, Tennessee concerning an Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Tennessee and their June 2017 efforts to remember Nashville lynchings from 1892 and 1924. Do Justice, the social justice ministry of St. John’s Episcopal Church, learned of this effort and sought approval from St. John’s leadership to approach other community partners, especially faith communities, to explore the possibility of assembling a task force to bring a similar project to fruition in Tallahassee.
OBJECTIVES: The Community Remembrance Project Task Force, constituted of members from diverse congregations and organizations, will support and participate in a community effort to achieve three objectives: 1. Erect a memorial plaque remembering African American victims of Leon County lynchings; 2. Lead a service of repentance, reconciliation and healing; and 3. Organize events in perpetuity that would serve as an educational and informational foundation and catalyst for remembrance of the atrocities of the past and present, acknowledging the challenging and difficult work of racial reconciliation through teaching, engagement, and action.
DETAILS OF LEON COUNTY LYNCHINGS: Research by the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, supplemented by additional research performed by task force members and validated by local historians and from materials available through the State Archives of Florida indicate that Florida was the site of at least 331 lynchings in the years between 1877 and 1950 and that four of those lynchings took place in Leon County: Pierce Taylor (1897), Mick Morris (1909), Richard Hawkins (1937), and Ernest Ponder (1937).
LOCATION: Multiple contemporaneous documents in the historical record confirm that these four African American men were taken from the Leon County Jail (near Cascades Park) and murdered. The task force recommends that a remembrance marker be erected near the jail site and that a memorial service be held at the Cascades Park amphitheater or other appropriate venue.
PROPOSAL: We recently submitted a proposal to the Equal Justice Initiative to receive approval to officially partner with them. Our hope is to claim Leon County’s duplicate monument as displayed at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and a narrative marker to go along with it, explaining the history and legacy of lynching in America and in Leon County. Our full proposal can be found here. We are delighted that EJI has approved our proposal and we are preparing to move forward as we continue to facilitate deeper conversations with the wider community and seek more community partners. You can view EJI’s proposal acceptance here.