Post contributed by Olivia Nichols, M.S., Human Development & Family Studies Doctoral Student.
In partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative, the Lee County Remembrance Project (LCRP) focuses on confronting the history of racial terror in Lee County and engaging the community through conversations about the narrative of racial injustices and the legacy of racial inequality in our community.
In an effort to accomplish this task, the LCRP utilizes the truth and reconciliation framework sanctioned by the Equal Justice Initiative. Our primary goal then is to identify and tell our county truths, particularly those most difficult to tell. After locating over 400 newspaper articles, we share them here, with you.
Between 1877 and 1950, thousands of African Americans were victims of racial terror lynching, including four men in Lee County, Alabama.
In 1886, John Moss and his cousin, George Hart, were accused of murdering a white Waverly resident. Hearing that a lynch mob was after them, they fled for safety – John to Wetumpka, and George to Birmingham. On November 3rd, 1886, John Moss was captured and taken back to Waverly. Despite his pleas of innocence, the mob tortured him, hanged him and burned his body.
George Hart was seized in a “citizen’s arrest” and held in the Montgomery jail. On Nov. 1, 1887, he returned to Opelika for trial. When the news broke that the evidence against him was “circumstantial and not strong enough to convict”, the white mob broke into the Opelika jail and, on Nov. 5th, hanged George from the same tree as John. A placard was found on his back which said, “this negro was hung by 100 determined men; whoever cuts him down will receive his fate.”
Lynchings in Lee County continued into the 20th century. On March 18th, 1900, a white mob shot Charles Humphries near Phenix City with over 40 gunshots for “outraging” a white, teenage female. On Nov. 3rd, 1902, a mob of white men seized Samuel Harris from work and accused him of an attempted robbery and attack on two white women near Salem. Mere hours later, he was shot by over 125 white men. His pregnant wife, Beatrice, was arrested as an accomplice.
No one was ever held accountable for these lynchings.
Sharing these truths emerge from a vision for harmony in our community and the recognition of past and present injustices that undermine and destroy. The legacies of racial terror and violence can only begin to be discussed and understood by acknowledgement of what occurred and by taking a closer look of the past. Although a deeper look into the past can be painful, we encourage all to do this because it equips us to better recognize and hopefully defeat injustices that are still being faced present day within the African American/Black Community.
To recognize and remember this history, our goals include developing educational materials for students and community members, and installing historical markers and memorials to remember the four men and their families. Accomplishing our goals involves each of us coming together, discussing the past so that we may become better advocates for the correction of injustices being faced currently. Without a doubt the building of a greater and more peaceful future will evolve to include marginalized individuals who were historically not received. It truly demands the participation of all citizens of Lee County. We NEED YOUR HELP! If you are not a part of the Lee County Remembrance Project we respectfully ask that you follow us on our Lee County Remembrance Facebook page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that you may be able to join us at our meetings and other events that will be taken place this semester such as the Soil Collection Ceremony. We look forward to your participation and cannot wait to see you at our events!
Ashley Brown, M.Ed., NCC
Counselor Education & Supervision Doctoral Candidate
Olivia Nichols, M.S.
Human Development & Family Studies Doctoral Student