Jefferson County's History of Racial Terror Violence
After the Civil War, violent resistance to equal rights for Black people led to decades of abuse and exploitation meant to intimidate Black people and enforce racial subordination. The research of our college fellows outlines acts of racial terrorism that lasted for nearly half a century in Jefferson County. This was a national system of terror and oppression that local governments, the press, religious institutions, and businesses were complicit in upholding. These residents were sons and daughters, siblings, and fathers and mothers. They lived through slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the rise of Jim Crow. But, their stories have mostly been lost.
JCMP fellows have taken an important step in researching these histories. 2019 JCMP Fellows researched the 30 documented victims of racial terror violence in Jefferson County. Our 2020 Fellows dove deeper into Birmingham’s local archives, each researching a local newspaper in print during the year of a lynching. They found four more victims and analyzed the greater system of racial terror in our county. In 2021, Fellows looked into the history of Birmingham’s Linn Park and its role throughout the city’s history as a place of both division and unity.
JCMP Fellow's Research
2019 Fellow Report
2020 Fellow Report
2021 Fellow Report
JCMP Film Fellow's Production
JCMP’s Research Fellows have been essential to the core of our coalition’s mission of researching our county’s documented racial terror victims. Since the inception of the JCMP fellowship in 2018, Fellows have continued on to do impactful work in other endeavors.
2020 Fellow Austin Lewter graduated from Birmingham Southern College in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and continues his studies as a graduate student in Pan African studies at Syracuse University. In March, Lewter presented at Syracuse’s inaugural Social Differences, Social Justice Research Symposium – presenting his research on the legacy of lynching in the United States, arguing that lynchings have moved from public spectacle—such as the courthouse lawn—and become quieter and more institutionalized, invoking the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland and Eric Garner as examples of modern lynchings. Over the spring and summer of 2022, Lewter continued his dedication to JCMP’s mission through an oral history project, Operation Legacy.
Operation Legacy began by trying to situate how people define lynching(s) in our contemporary. Most of us would quickly call reference to a noose, tall oak trees, and ruthless mobs. With those common historical characteristics waning, we must draw new connections to the legacy of racial terror in our community, state, and country. Suggesting that lynchings abruptly stopped one day presents the false notion that America has wholly addressed disparities across race, class, and gender. As this project grew, conversations shifted to our memory of the Civil Rights (Freedom) Movement, challenges facing Birmingham today, and the value of being honest about who we were, are and hope to become as a city. Operation Legacy is about placing our current moment in the context of a long, most often violent, striving toward freedom.
Special Thanks: To all of the participants (some of which you’ll hear from in the video), Joi Brown, Sidney Buckingham, Birmingham-Southern College, Syracuse University, Charles Morgan Jr. (deceased)
Help Us Build Our Archive
Building off of EJI’s research, our JCMP fellows, for the first time comprehensively researched these 30 documented victims. Yet, we know this is only the start of our understand of who these men and women were. If you have any information on these residents or their families, please let us know: