On August 14, 1904 Rufus Lesseur was abducted and then held in a shack hours before being lynched before a crowd of unmasked men. Officials refused to identify or prosecute anyone for this racial terror. The shack where this tragedy took place still stands today in Thomaston, AL.
An interior view of the shack where Rufus Lesseur was held the day of his lynching on August 14, 1904 in Thomaston, AL.
Gene Bowen (left) was six years old when he awoke on a Sunday morning in 1940 o find his parents outside the home attending to a young African American man found bleeding to death on their property. The family wrapped the unconscious man in a bed sheet and rushed him to the local hospital where he latter succumbed to his wounds.
Deborah Tatum (right) was researching her family genealogy recently when she came across the name of a relative who had been charged with assaulting a white woman in Troup County, GA and was later arrested. The evening of his arrest, an armed group of hooded men entreated the jail and snatched the man from police custody without resistance. He was then driven to the edge of town, shot multiple times, and left to die. That man’s name was Austin Callaway.
On July 28, 2017 these two familiar strangers came together at the site of Callaway’s lynching for the first time to speak his name aloud.
Steven Bradley (center) stands with his children in a field outside of the Elaine Legacy Center in Elaine, AR. Bradley is a Black Lives Matter spokesman in Memphis, TN and the Great Great Grandson of Ed Coleman.
Coleman was one of the twelve African American sharecroppers convicted of murder during the Elaine Race Massacre and was sentenced to death in the electric chair.
During an interview Bradley said, “My people have been fighting for so long. I have children now and I want them not to have to fight the exact same fight we’ve been fighting for the last hundred years.”
Children in Elaine, AR during one of the after school programs hosted by Patricia Kienzle at the Lee Street Community Center.
William Quiney III has lived in Phillips County, AR most of his life and is seen here standing on land that formerly belonged to his family in Elaine, AR. His wife’s Grandfather, Pink Branden, lived through the 1919 Elaine Race Massacre and relayed memories of the massacre to Quiney before he died. Quiney remembers seeing Branden sob as he spoke of having to bury bodies of those who were killed into mass graves.
Jamilah Muhammad, a Moore’s Ford Bridge reenactor stands outside the First African Baptist Church in Monroe, GA.
Emmanuel Cook plays the Blues on the site where Leander Shaw was lynched in Pensacola, FL on July 29, 1908.
Shaw was accused of the rape and murder of a white woman and was taken to the county jail. Around 9pm a white mob gathered and forced their way into the jail as Sheriff James C. Vanpelt fired shots back, killing two.
Shaw was dragged from his jail cell and taken to the town plaza and hung from an electric light pole as a crowd of 1000 looked on. His body was then riddled with over 2000 bullets by the angry mob.
Margarette Jones holds a photograph of her Great Grandfather, John Bernie Junior Smith who was a part of an all white mob that killed over 200 hundred people in Elaine, AR in 1919.
“My Great Grandpa was in on the killing” she said during an interview. “I’ve got a son that’s married to a black girl and I think that everybody aught to get along...what my kinfolks done has nothing to do with me so don’t hold it against me for what they done.”
Gene Bowen holds a photograph of his parents at his home in LaGrange, GA. Bowen was six years old when he awoke on a Sunday morning in 1940 to find his parents outside the home attending to a young African American man found bleeding to death on their property. The family wrapped the unconscious man in a bed sheet and rushed him to the local hospital where he later succumbed to his wounds. Austin Callaway, the young African American man, had been arrested the evening before and was snatched from police custody without resistance by an armed group of hooded men. He was then driven to the edge of town, shot multiple times, and left to die.
A Walton County resident sits inside the First African Baptist Church in Monroe, GA during a remembrance ceremony held before the 13th annual reenactment of the lynchings at the Moore’s Ford Bridge.
Dereck Daniels (left) and Dequincy Wilson (right) are part of an after school program held at the Lee Street Community Center in Elaine, AR. The center serves as an educational stepping stone into the history surrounding the Elaine Race Massacre that occurred in 1919.
Mahendra Prasad, a volunteer with the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis visits the site of the “Peoples Grocery” lynching which occurred in 1892.
Thomas Moss, a friend of Ida B. Wells, and his two co-workers, Will Stewart and Calvin McDowell were lynched by a white mob while in police custody. Moss's last words were reported to be, "Tell my people to go West, there is no justice for them here."
On May 16, 1918 Sidney Johnson shot and killed a white man after refusing to work within the convict leasing system that had been forced upon him. Over the next several days, 11 African Americans were lynched as an act of retaliation near Lowndes and Brooks County in Georgia. A mob first castrated Johnson’s body and then tied him to an automobile as he was dragged down to what is now Mt. Zion Campground United Methodist Church in Morven, Georgia. His corpse was "placed upon a fat pine stump and large quantities of wood piled around it, and the whole was then thoroughly saturated with oil." His body was burned until all that was left were his ashes. He was 18 years old at the time.
Pastor George Andrew Gibson grew up in Elaine, AR but left town as soon as he could. When Gibson returned he began to help organize the Lee Street Community Center alongside the founder, Patricia Kienzle. During an interview he stated, “I had a yearning to come back home…I wanted to come and help and be a blessing to the kids of the this town.”
Ernest Green and Charlie Lang were just boys when they were lynched at the infamous “Hanging Bridge” in Shubuta, MS in 1942. Earlier, in 1918, a mob hung two men and two pregnant women at the same bridge.
Nikol Cureton, Moore’s Ford Bridge reenactor.
“The reenactment gave me a much clearer view of what not only my family and grandparents experienced growing up in the South, but what my ancestors had to live with…this is something that touched me. It’s a heart wrenching experience.”