Community gathers to remember 1902 lynching

Several people attended the Lynch Hammock Gravesite Remembrance at the St. Mark's Baptist Church Cemetery on Saturday.
Several people attended the Lynch Hammock Gravesite Remembrance at the St. Mark's Baptist Church Cemetery on Saturday. (Photo by Taryn Ashby)
Manny Price Brooks headstone
Photo by Taryn Ashby The headstone for Manny Price Brooks.

Saturday was a hot and humid day at St. Mark’s Baptist Church Cemetery, but the weather didn’t stop people from attending the “Lynch Hammock” Gravesite Remembrance.  

Late Saturday morning, people filed into rows of chairs to honor the lives and memories of Manny Price Brooks, 9, and Robert Suggs, 11.  

Brooks and Suggs were playing in a field when they were wrongfully accused of slaughtering cattle. The boys were taken to Newberry and publicly lynched in 1902. The tragedy marked the earliest lynching that occurred at “Lynch Hammock.” 

“There is an importance of remembering our history and honoring those whose lives were lost in the struggle for freedom in this country,” Dr. Kenneth Nunn said.  

Sherry Sherrod DuPree led the memorial event, which featured music, prayer, poems, and a grand unveiling of a Black History Stone. 

Nii Sowa La performed the drum call and libation, an African tradition of pouring a liquid as an offering in memory of those who passed. Ashley Hill sang, “His eye is on the sparrow,” and Kali Blount sang, “Strange Fruit.”  

Ashley Hill sings, “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” during the remembrance ceremony.
Photo by Taryn Ashby Ashley Hill sings, “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” during the remembrance ceremony.

Herbert C. DuPree and E. Stanley Richardson—Alachua County’s poet laureate—both read poems for those in attendance. 

Newberry had the largest known mass lynching in Florida history in 1916. Six, possibly more, black individuals lost their lives in what is known today as the Newberry Massacre.  

Last year members of the community gathered in Newberry for a soil collection ceremony, after which one of the jars of soil went to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.  

“I think that every time we have the opportunity to uncover an injustice of the past and to say we are sorry to the descendants of that family, the importance can’t be measured,” said Newberry Mayor Jordon Marlowe, an active participant in the Truth and Reconciliation Project since Dr. Patricia Hillard Nunn founded it two decades ago. “The importance of the family, the importance of the community, the ability to say we are sorry, and the ability to uncover this history and discuss it is incalculable to our ability to work together into the future.” 

The new Black History Stone is on Brooks’ grave at St. Mark’s Baptist Church Cemetery off State Road 27 in Half-Moon, Florida. The location of Suggs’ body is still unknown.  

The stone is in memory of the two boys and the hidden history that is now available to the public. 

Nii Sowa La performs libation, an African tradition of pouring a liquid as an offering in memory of those who passed.
Photo by Taryn Ashby Nii Sowa La performs libation, an African tradition of pouring a liquid as an offering in memory of those who passed.
Kali Blount sings the song “Strange Fruit.”
Photo by Taryn Ashby Kali Blount sings the song “Strange Fruit.”
E. Stanley Richardson (middle) reads his poem “Century Oak, a Conversation with a Tree.”
Photo by Taryn Ashby E. Stanley Richardson (middle) reads his poem “Century Oak, a Conversation with a Tree.”
Back side of Manny Price Brook's headstone
Photo by Taryn Ashby The back side of Manny Price Brook’s headstone at the “Lynch Hammock” Gravesite Remembrance ceremony outside of Newberry on Saturday.
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Mike

Brave of you to publish this. There are people out there who don’t want this travesty of injustice, shared. They want to cover up ‘incidents ‘ like this to make sure they are lost to history. They want to ban books and eliminate any reference to the murders committed by people very similar to themselves.

Helene Rhine

Thank you for this important coverage. Reporting on these events keeps this sad history current.

E. Stanley Richardson

Taryn Ashby,
Thank you for your journalism!
Thank you Mainstreet Daily News, for reporting on this story.

Sincerely