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Proposed Lynching Memorial For Tallahassee Generates Mixed Feelings

Blaise Gainey
Credit Blaise Gainey

Where to place a memorial recognizing the four, Jim Crow-era, Leon County lynching victims? That’s under consideration by a group calling itself the Community Remembrance Project Task Force.

The task force is made up of members of local churches and faith based groups. The goal is to honor the lives of Mike Morris, Pierce Taylor, Ernest Ponder and Richard Hawkins - all four men lynched in Tallahassee between 1897 and 1937.

Task force member Byron Greene describes what they would like to do. 

“Ultimately we would like to bring a replica of the memorials from the lynching museum in Alabama that are being house by the Equal Justice Initiative. Bring those here to Tallahassee. We’re looking for a spot, a place to house these memorials but we have not been successful at this time," Greene told the Democratic Club of North Florida Monday.

He says the group has reached out to the Parks and Recreations Department and may ask the county or city to help figure out where to put the memorial.

Gloria Jefferson attended the meeting. She says she remembers stories about the lynching’s, and believes the number is higher than four.

"As said in the meeting, it’s a whole lot more than four. Because my father who--we lived out on the northeast part of town--he showed us a tree where he was familiar with lynching’s," Jefferson said. "And other people that I have known in the community have identified other areas where lynching’s were."

While the committee figures out a location for the memorial, it also wants to use the platform as a way to bring people together.

"For the meantime, we are trying to engage citizens in communication with one another, dialogue to talk about these atrocities and how they’ve affected us even to this day," said Greene.

But a similar project in Montgomery, Alabama is doing the opposite with some members of the community saying it opens old wounds.

And Jefferson, a lifelong capitol city native, says she’s heard similar sentiments.

“Out of about 200 seniors they said 'No!' It was the idea of putting a museum on a place where people were hung. They were horrified and did not approve of such a movement."

She says the idea of having written language somewhere to educate citizens may be a better received method of getting the message across. Greene says the first idea the task force has come up with is to have something by Cascades Park near the former Leon County Jail where it’s believe the four victims escaped from prior to their death. So far they haven’t gotten any approval from Tallahassee Parks and Recreations Department.


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Blaise Gainey is a Multimedia Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.
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