Gainesville reveals second lynching marker

Students of Caring and Sharing Learning School sing

Alachua County revealed a new historical marker on Saturday in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Multipurpose Center that remembered four lynching victims in Alachua County. 

Before the reveal, the attendees met in the center for a program. 

After a traditional libation ceremony, students from Caring and Sharing Learning School sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Later in the program, they also sang “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” and “We Shall Overcome.”

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The keynote speaker was Michelle Duster, an author, professor, historian and great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells. 

Duster summed up her great-grandmother’s life and spoke to the issues she fought for, and that her family still fights for.

Michelle Duster gives the keynote speech at the historical marker ceremony.

“So even my generation, three generations after my great-grandmother, we have been involved in trying to get justice,” Duster said. 

In 1898, Well formed part of a delegation that met with President William McKinley to create a federal anti-lynching bill. In 2005, Duster’s brother spoke before the Senate about the bill.

After more than 200 legislative attempts, the anti-lynching bill passed the Senate earlier this week and will head to President Joe Biden for his signature—124 years after Wells pushed for the legislation following the death of a Black federal postmaster.

“I was born 101 years after my great-grandmother,” Duster said. “So a century separates us, but I am still fighting for some of the things she was fighting for.” 

Duster said the county had without a doubt progressed since 1862, but systemic racism still persists. She said that the proof lies in the metrics that show African Americans at the bottom of different categories like education, healthcare and housing. 

She said America still has a long way to go in acknowledging trust and work toward reconciliation. 

Pastor Andy Bachman, left, and Rev. Carl Smart perform the reading of names.

The historical marker will be the second in Gainesville that remembers lynching victims. The first is on the West Lawn of the county administration building near where the former Confederate monument “Old Joe” stood. 

Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Ward pointed back to 2018 when the statue was removed as a step in the right direction. 

“Not only is [Old Joe] not a person, not a real human being,” Ward said. “It was a symbol. A symbol of hate and oppression and violence. Not an actual person.”

The marker is the third in Alachua County. Newberry held a ceremony on Feb. 5, 2021 for the infamous “Newberry 6” incident that occurred on Aug. 19, 1916. 

The historical marker, funded by the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., recalls the history of lynching in America and Florida during the post-Reconstruction era.

Also at the ceremony, the attendees held a reading of names ceremony for four known victims of lynching in Alachua County between 1891 and 1914—Tony Champion, Andrew Ford, Alfred Daniels and Lester Watts. 

The men were also remembered at a soil collection ceremony in February, and the jars of soil from the lynching sites were on display Saturday.

Soil on display from area lynching sites

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