I just finished reading D. L. Mayfield’s lengthy cover feature article in the September 2017 issue of Christianity Today (pp. 34-42), “In Memory of These – How a Montgomery Lynching Memorial Could Help Christians Repent and a Nation Heal.” She began with her investigation and personal memorializing of the 1902 lynching of Alonzo Tucker in Coors Bay, Oregon, not far from where she lives. She makes some allusion to the current turmoil around Confederate monuments, but she goes back much further and deeper than that to affirm how essential repentance for communal and historic sin is for healing.
She affirms the proposed memorial to the 4,000+ confirmed lynchings of African-Americans from 1877 until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s. Her own experience with memorializing Alonzo Tucker suggests a further step to personalize and localize this plea for repentance. Only a few people will trek to Montgomery to see it, and those would be sympathetic. I wonder what would be the effect of placing a lynching memorial within sight of every monument and memorial of the Civil War/War Between the States, both Union and Confederate. And besides the listing of names, as Christianity Today did in the graphics of the article indicating the massive scope of lynching, each of these bear the name (when known) of a specific lynching victim. Perhaps much as portrayals of the Apostles are frequently shown with the instruments of their martyrdom, these lynching victims be shown holding a noose or having a noose draped around their necks.
A lot of talk about Confederate monuments has been about not erasing history. The history of lynching and other abuses of former slaves and their descendants has not only been erased, for the most part it has been excluded from how history is told and taught. I would suggest (not that anyone will take my suggestion seriously), that a lynching memorial be placed at every monument to Union “heroes” and “victories” be included as well. There is plenty to repent of on both sides and for the inheritors of both traditions. This would prompt serious reflection of a more complete if uncomfortable look at history.
D. L. Mayfield introduced her article with the story of a lynching in Oregon. I have a friend who as a child witnessed the lynching of his teenage uncle in the 1950s in New Jersey, because someone did not like the way he looked at a white woman. The history of lynching is not a southern problem. It is the gaping but hidden wound of the racial divide that has stained the US for centuries and continues to strain relationships and progress toward justice today. Also, keep in mind that this article appeared in Christianity Today, not something from the liberal left, but from the core of evangelical Christianity in the US.