Saturday, Nov. 5, marked the inaugural celebration of the Lee County Day of Remembrance at the Lee County Courthouse Square.
The Day of Remembrance has been an initiative pushed by the Lee County Remembrance Project which strives to shed light on racial terror lynchings that took place in the county.
Four Black men have been the focus of the project, as they were the four recorded instances of lynchings in Lee County. Those four men were George Hart, John Moss, Charles Humphries and Samuel Harris.
“We want to honor them,” said Cofounder and Co-Executive Director of the LCRP Dr. Ashley Brown. “We want to know that these men were fathers, they were someone’s son, uncles, friends and, most importantly, community members.”
Brown said that she hoped this event will help the people of Lee County acknowledge historical injustices that have taken place so that they can look forward to a more equal and equitable society.
After Brown opened the ceremony, the Auburn University Mosaic Theatre Company performed. The performance consisted of poems from prominent Black poets and readings of articles published at the time of the lynchings with interjections of clarification that were not included due to the biases of those publications at the time.
Kourtney Clay of the AU Gospel Choir then conducted a solo performance of “Deep River” before Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller, Auburn Mayor Pro Tem Beth Witten and Smiths Station Mayor Pro Tem Morris Jackson read the proclamation.
The proclamation stated that the Day of Remembrance will be an officially recognized day in Lee County on Nov. 5 going forward.
Following this, Joe Davis, co-executive director of the LCRP, and Billy Allen, president of the NAACP Lee County Branch, gave awards to several high school students who participated in an essay competition.
“Our history is still present with us,” Davis said. “And this history is something we still have not confronted as a community. We want to remind people of our past, not so that we dwell on that, but so that we can move forward to a more just future.”
The winner of the contest was 16-year-old JaNiah Hoskins of Smiths Station High School. Her essay centered on the ongoing history of Alabama’s voter suppression.
“I feel like, as young people, we don’t talk about racial injustice enough,” Hoskins said. “To finally reach out to people and experience the same kind of topic as everyone else here, it feels good to know that people liked my essay and enjoyed reading my essay. It meant a lot to me.”
Hoskins said she was happy to see that the community does remember the victims of lynchings and racial injustice.
“The past is not something that we just talk about and forget,” Hoskins said. “It is something that is so important to keep talking about each and every year.”
Davis said that the goals of LCRP were to remind people of what really happened when these lynchings occurred. He said that these acts were celebrated as justice when they happened.
“That’s not what happened,” Davis said. “What happened was not just, was not right. So we want to remember these men and this era of racial terror lynching that occurred in our country and right here in our community.”
He also said that he was pleased that this was a county-wide effort. He wanted the time to serve as a time to remember and grieve the unjust acts that were perpetrated against those men.
Brown reiterated Davis’ statements but added that the day stood in honor of not only the four Lee County men whose lynchings were recorded, but that it was meant to honor those who were not included in the public record and were forgotten.
“We must honor these men to bring humanity back where, in historical perspectives, they were dehumanized,” Brown said.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.
Tucker Massey, sophomore in journalism, is a news editor for The Auburn Plainsman.