The 30 Victims of Jefferson County

Below is the report compiled by JCMP Fellows that documents the 30 documented victims of racial terror violence in Jefferson County. They spent the fall of 2018 working with university advisors and The Birmingham Public Library to compile primary research on these individuals. This is the first time a comprehensive report on these residents has been completed.

LEWIS
HOUSTON

The lynching in Linn Park, and a Memorial for Linn Park.

On Friday November 24th, 1883, Lewis Houston was lynched in Birmingham’s Central Park, now called Linn Park. He was accused of assaulting a white woman. A mob of around 150 white men stormed the jail on Fourth Avenue North, dragged him up 21st Street to the park, and hung him from one of its pine trees. Lewis Houston was no more than twenty years old.  A newspaper reporter was able to be at the scene because a rumor that he would be lynched had circulated throughout Birmingham. Even so, the jail took no extra precautions to protect Houston. The Mayor did request militia, but they arrived after the lynching had already occurred. No judicial action was ever taken against the members of the mob.

It’s important to note the intended effects of the mob choosing to drag Lewis Houston to this public space for his murder. Racial terror was used to stop the black community from having equal access to the white community’s social, economic, and legal resources. To have Houston’s death in this public space, the park outside the city’s capital, solidified both symbolic and literal control of public spaces and goods as reserved for the white community.

JCMP hopes to place the Jefferson County Memorial in Linn Park to ensure this racial terror is remembered in Birmingham and Jefferson County’s history.  It will hold those places of power that surround the park accountable for their past actions in the hopes of never allowing such terror to take place again.

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