The Weakley County Reconciliation Project presented “Local Lynchings and Why They Still Matter” on Feb. 11 as a part of the University of Tennessee at Martin 21st annual Civil Rights Conference.
The Weakley County Reconciliation Project is a nonpartisan community organization dedicated to facilitating conversations about race, racism and social injustice in Weakley County, as well as recognizing and honoring the victims of lynching in the region.
The event was facilitated by Weakley County Reconciliation Project member Chris Gunlefinger and included presentations by Dr. Carol Acree Cavalier, independent researcher; Melinda Meador, first assistant district attorney of Obion County; and Dr. Brian Clardy, UT Martin alumnus and associate professor of history at Murray State University.
More than 6,000 race-related lynchings occurred in the United States between the Civil War and World War II, including at least eight people killed in lynchings in Weakley County: an unidentified boy, August 24, 1869; William and Edward Johnson, April 24, 1871; Loab Sanders, July 29, 1892; Lee C. Dumas, June 9, 1893; Edgar Bell, July 28, 1893; Bob Hudson, Oct. 7, 1893; and Mallie Wilson, Sept. 3, 1915.
“It’s a subject that no one really wants to talk about,” explained Cavalier. “It’s very uncomfortable. It was traumatic for the Black community. White people aren’t comfortable talking about it, and it seems to me that the wounds are still open and raw. If there is a subject that causes shame, it needs to be addressed, and we can’t heal without even just acknowledging the facts of what happened.”
The trio also answered questions from the virtual audience at the end of the presentation, which can be viewed on the UT Martin Office of Multicultural Affairs Facebook account.