This article appeared originally on The University of Alabama’s Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility’s website.
by Erin Mosley and Jamon Smith
Dr. John Giggie describes the eras most Americans refer to as Reconstruction, the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties as periods of racial terror for a significant portion of the country’s population. “At a time when the United States was in fact growing and prospering, many African-Americans feared for their lives,” says Giggie, associate professor of history and African American studies at The University of Alabama and director of the Summersell Center for the Study of the South.
More than 4,000 black people in 12 Southern states were lynched between 1877 and 1950, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery, Ala.-based nonprofit human rights law firm whose mission includes challenging racial and economic injustice. And these are just the cases EJI has documented. At least 360 lynchings took place in Alabama, and at least 10 Tuscaloosa County men were murdered in this way.
Giggie took the Equal Justice Initiative’s baseline data on lynchings in Tuscaloosa County and asked his students to delve deeper. After exploring the history of lynching in America, students learn the research skills they need to find important documents and share them through a digital humanities website.
Fifteen UA students enrolled in HY 300/AAST 395 Southern Memory: Lynching in the South collectively spent more than 1,000 hours documenting the lives and circumstances surrounding the deaths of 10 Tuscaloosa County residents who were lynched between 1884 and 1933. They created a digital humanities website to share their findings with the public and serve as a database for lynchings in the South.
Students also worked in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative to advocate for a historical marker commemorating victims. On March 6, 2017, the marker was erected in front of the old Tuscaloosa County Jail. After the unveiling, more than 1,000 people attended a ceremony hosted by UA students, EJI representatives and community members at First African Baptist Church to honor the victims. Students Maruka Walker and Ellie Bowers were among the speakers, and discussed their research.
To continue reading this story, visit the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility’s website.