“I learned the story of Elizabeth Lawrence, a schoolteacher in Birmingham who scolded a group of white children after they threw stones at her. The children told their parents. A mob came to her home, murdered her, and burned her house down. I learned the story of Thomas Miles, Sr., of Shreveport, Louisiana, a black man who was accused of writing a letter to a white woman. After a judge acquitted him, he was abducted by a mob outside the courtroom and taken to a tree where he was beaten, stabbed, shot, and hanged. I learned the story of Mamie, who was a child in Mississippi when her father and his friend were threatened with lynching. Mamie’s family fled; her father’s friend stayed and was hanged. . . . Lynchings occurred at any time, for many reasons: allegations of a serious crime or a casual transgression, fear of interracial sex, or desire for public spectacle. The terror it induced is impossible to describe, a burden still carried today. We haven’t learned to talk about lynching–or the nation’s racist history–in an open and honest way. It’s difficult to face the past, to acknowledge the role of some of our ancestors in the brutality inflicted upon their fellow humans. Despite what we were taught in grade school, our collective shame does not fit neatly in the time period between the Civil War and the civil rights movement. It’s time to understand the complete picture of our history, to have the courage to go there, to absorb it.” Katie Couric
“And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man,
so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.”
1 Corinthians 14:48b NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- The deaths by lynching of 4,400 people, mostly in Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, have been documented by the Equal Justice Initiative. If we were going to talk about this, who would talk to who, and about what?
- Jesus Christ came into our world to “set the captives free” (Luke 4:18), and as an act of love for all our world’s people–the kosmos (John 3:16). Jesus practiced and emphasized loving those in great need (Luke 10). In the verse above, the Apostle Paul argues that “we” (any who bear Adam’s image) are equal candidates to bear God’s image. Given just these few facts, can you think of a way to justify 4,400 lynchings?
- If our culture won’t have the courage to talk about this, can at least the church model how to “go there?”
Abba, may we do what we can that these dead shall not have died in vain.
For More: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Couric, Katie. “Hallowed Ground.” National Geographic (April 2018): pp. 150-151.
Staples, Brent. “When Southern Newspapers Justified Lynching” New York Times, May 6, 2018.
So, Yes! Let’s enter the conversation. I learned as a college student that my great grandparents were members of the KKK. In fact, I found notes form meetings that were taken and signed by one of them. I really don’t know what to do with that. I spend my life’s work building caring communities in schools.
It brings up many questions. The most haunting one is – if they legitimized this and were involved, what makes me think that I would have been any different.
Who’s out there talking about this stuff, and what is it like?
Thanks Todd. Painful stuff. I think some in the Christian community are talking or ready to talk (for instance I see stuff in America magazine (RCC) and in Sojourners. But the church it seems is mostly silent, as on other important issues. If you go on the website for New Life Fellowship in Queens (newlife.nyc) you’ll find a half a dozen excellent sermons on questions around race. Highly recommended. Let’s see if others write in like you did. Thanks for doing that!