Sometimes folks will ask, what is the value of these trips? At their core, these trips are about knowing and reclaiming history. As community member Andy Reynolds tells UW student Davon White, history is very powerful and often very personal.
At the Equal Justice Institute, history is being reclaimed. From the 1870's through the 1940's more than 4000 people were lynched across the south. EJI calls this an era of racial terrorism. To remember this era and honor those murdered, EJI has launched a project to collect soil from every location where a person was lynched. Our group took part.
We filled a glass jar with dirt from the place where Jim Meriwether, an organizer for the Sharecroppers Union, was murdered in the mid-thirties. HIs wife was raped and hung, but she did not die and later traveled to Washington D.C. to testify about the crime. No one was ever brought to justice.
Digging into that earth was a profound moment. The earth was hard. We were silent. The small spades scrapped the soil. The site was next to an old graveyard. Beyond the headstones, rolling hills, dotted with farmhouses, cows and sheep in the fields.
UW student Davon White could feel the past collide with the present. White talks with Reynolds about the line linking Meriwether's lynching to the killings of James Byrd, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown today.
By the way, if you are interested in the history of sharecroppers trying to organize in the South, there is no better place to start than with UW Tacoma Professor Michael Honey's Book, "Sharecropper's Troubadour: John L. Handcox, the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union and the African-American Song Tradition."