Public Invited To Participate In Soil Collection: A Community Remembrance Project

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

In the decades after the Civil War, more than 4,000 people were lynched across the South, with at least four men lynched in Hamilton County during that time. Alfred Blount and Ed Johnson were lynched from the Walnut Street Bridge, Charles Williams was lynched from the Hamilton County Jail and Charles Brown was lynched from a bridge in Soddy Daisy. 

More than 100 years later, the Ed Johnson Project and the Equal Justice Initiative invite citizens of Hamilton County to remember and honor the four lynching victims during a ceremony. As part of the remembrance, community members will collect soil from the lynching sites and place it in jars with the men’s names and the date of the lynching. 

“Many have asked us, ‘Why remember that?’ and ‘Why can't the bones stay buried in the past?’’ said Eric Atkins, a member of the Ed Johnson Committee. “Our respectful reply is this, that we can have no healing and reconciliation without remembrance, and when we do this it indirectly liberates us all to be free. Dr. King reminds us, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate can't drive out hate, only love can do that.’ And so as we lean to the better angels of our nature, let us press on and create an unbreakable chain of love and unity for our City through building up the Beloved Community, one where our children might say in the future that we resolved to turn our darkest moments into our finest hours, when we looked past the murky darkness and embraced the marvelous light.” 

The Community Remembrance will begin at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 15, at the site of the historic Hamilton County Jail at 605 Walnut St. After brief remarks and collecting soil, everyone will march to the Walnut Street Bridge. 

The event at the Walnut Street Bridge will begin at 2:50 p.m. It will include remarks, readings about the four men and soil collection. Students from several Hamilton County schools will help to collect the soil and present the jars to members of the Equal Justice Initiative. 

The four filled jars will be placed in the Memorial to Peace and Justice, which is being built in Montgomery, Al. to remember the thousands of lives lost to lynchings in the United States. Four identical jars will be kept in Hamilton County. 

“EJI has initiated a campaign to recognize the victims of lynching by collecting soil from lynching sites and creating a memorial that acknowledges the horrors of racial injustice,” according the Equal Justice Initiative website. “We aim to transcend time and altered terrain to bear witness to this history and the devastation these murders wrought upon individuals, families, communities, and our nation as a whole. We invite you to join our effort to help this nation confront and recover from tragic histories of racial violence and terrorism and to create an environment where there can truly be equal justice for all.” 

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