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.
PARTNERS: In May 2018, St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian Church, and St. John’s Episcopal Church became full partners in the Community Remembrance Project. Recent recruitment efforts have added the following partners: Good Shepherd Catholic Church, Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More, Tallahassee Friends Meeting, Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, Temple Israel, Grace Mission Episcopal Church and Justice850. These partners will conduct further outreach to expand the task force to include additional members.
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.
RELATED NEWS AND MEDIA: ‘Painful history’: Remembering Leon County’s lynching victims