Alachua County unveils soil jar exhibit for lynching victims

Jars of soil lined in a bookcase
Jars of soil collected from lynching sites across Alachua County.
Photo by Seth Johnson

Alachua County unveiled Saturday its new soil collection exhibit, taken from lynching sites across the area and now permanently displayed in its administration building. 

The exhibit came out of the Alachua County Community Remembrance Project that started in 2020. Since then, many subgroups across the county have met, located lynching sites, held soil collection ceremonies and continued the Truth and Reconciliation process.  

On Saturday, local officials and citizens gathered on the west lawn of the county administration building to hear how the project came together, listen to Gospel Meets Jazz and enjoy dancing from Expressive Song and Dance Ministry.  

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Groups also went inside to view the exhibit, which includes maps of the local lynchings and history of the Reconstruction Era.  The soil jars in the lobby also have duplicate jars sent to The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Ala.  

The soil jars, and ceremony, are just down the sidewalk from Alachua County’s new Sankofa bird statue in memory of Dr. Patricia Hilliard-Nunn, who died in 2020. Hilliard-Nunn served as a leader in the remembrance project and researched the Newberry Six lynchings.  

Dr. Kenneth Nunn, husband of Hilliard-Nunn, said the Newberry Six lynchings remained under the surface of many of the discussions Hilliard-Nunn would have about racial violence in Alachua County. But he said no one wanted to bring up the details.  

Hilliard-Nunn decided to research the event fully, Nunn said, meeting with family members and leaders. In 2002, she had gathered enough material to hold a memorial for the victims. 

E. Stanley Richardson, Alachua County’s poet laureate, said he remembered hearing parts of the story as a child visiting family in the Jonesville and Newberry area.  

“As a little boy, I only got bits and pieces of the story, but it was a part of me,” Richardson recalled.  

Eventually, Hilliard-Nunn presented her full research, and at a Matheson History Museum event, Richardson said he got the full story, filling in the details left from the oral history his family had told.  

Nunn said soil is an appropriate remembrance of the lynching victims—both those from Newberry and across the county. 

Dr. Kenneth Nunn speaks at the grand opening of Alachua County soil jar exhibit honoring lynching victims.
Photo by Seth Johnson Dr. Kenneth Nunn speaks at the grand opening of Alachua County soil jar exhibit honoring lynching victims.

“Each jar holds sacred soil,” Nunn said. “Soil that soaked in the blood of those who were murdered. Soil that retains the footprints of the mob that killed them. Soil that absorbed the tears of the families that reclaimed the bodies of their loved ones. Soil that nurtured new growth of plants and trees that mark the spot of these vicious crimes. How could the soil not remember? The soil is a fitting memorial to the victims of racial violence in Alachua County. Racial violence that was once accepted but is now condemned.” 

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Celtiegirl

What??

Jim Porter

So glad we’re owning up to our past transgressions. And honoring the victims of hatred and ethnic supremacism.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jim Porter
BillS

“Our” transgressions Jim? I’m not into the white guilt insofar as my ansectors are from places not even close to Alachuia County. This collective guilt trip has gone too far.

Oakman

Who was the local wood craftsman who built this?