Confronting Racial Terror: The Legacy of Lynching

In January, “The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America” exhibit was on display in the library’s computer lab.

The exhibit focused on historical lynchings in Jacksonville and included present-day images of where the lynchings occurred, newspaper headlines and clippings that were published at the times of the lynchings, and descriptions of each individual case.

Interviews of Jacksonville natives who lived through the lynchings also played on a screen. This aspect of the exhibit exposes viewers to a new perspective of the fear instilled in African Americans during the times of lynching.

Art teacher, Jim Smith, created an installation for the exhibit at Bolles; it consists of a large piece of plexiglass with two silhouettes of a man with his hands behind his head and his head down.

Mr. Smith’s installation was interactive in that it allowed students to process the information in the exhibit, then add to it by writing messages to the victims and why it is important to never forget what happened.

He said, “The problem with making art about something as horrific as lynching or the holocaust [is that] it’s hard to make a poignant piece that’s not disgusting…The pictures I’ve seen of the lynching are horrendous, they’re just terrifying. I didn’t want to do that. I want to make a point without making people get sick.”
Head of the Arts department, Laura Rippel, was invited to MOSH by Mr. Smith and was moved by what she saw. She said, “I want people to understand that this is not history- this is current events and so it’s important to know what happened, why people feel the way they do, and how it is still affecting people today and I thought this exhibit in particular did a really good job of that.”

The exhibit that came to Bolles is a traveling exhibit that has also visited JU, UNF, FSCJ, banks, private buildings, and libraries. There is a permanent exhibit at Jacksonville’s Museum of Science and History (MOSH).

Mrs. Rippel wished her students were able to experience such a valuable exhibit, but getting them there would be logistically impossible. Because this topic was so important, she talked to the director of MOSH and requested for the exhibit to come to Bolles.

 

The Black History Experience by BSU

On February 25, the Black Student Union conducted “The Black History Experience by BSU” during Activities in Lynch. The event’s purpose was to give students the opportunity to share the arts of African American culture with the school. Julian Morris ‘20 began the event by singing the negro national anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing. Shortly after Sarah O’Brien ‘21 and Dyasia Ford ‘22 delivered Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Faculty sponsors of the club, Mr. Brewer and Mrs. Ashman were given the Ashman Brewer Appreciation Award by the club president, Taiwo Sogbesan ‘20. Both teachers said they are proud of the club and it’s accomplishments and hopes that this event could potentially one day be a convocation.

 

Mr. Smith and the Equal Justice Initiative

Mr. Smith is also a board member for the Jacksonville chapter of the Equal Justice Initiative. Bryan Stevenson is the founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, located in Montgomery, Alabama, who gives legal support to people who have been sentenced wrongfully. Stevenson, along with his staff, has won over 135 reversals, or reliefs for wrongly sentenced prisoners on death row. Stevenson is played by Michael B. Jordan in Just Mercy, who defends a man wrongfully accused of murder who is played by Jamie Foxx.

The EIJ has chapters throughout the United States which conduct ceremonies to commemorate and honor the victims of lynching. At each lynching site, a soil sample is taken and placed into a glass jar to be labeled and then put on display at The Legacy Museum where over 400 soil collections from around the U.S. have been sent.

On NPR’s Fresh Air program aired January 20th 2020, Stevenson said The EJI founded The Legacy Museum which “dramatizes racial injustice from enslavement to mass incarceration, and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, dedicated to the memory of enslaved people and African-Americans terrorized by lynching, humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.”