Immortalizing Hate and Murder In Madison County

The Jackson Sun’s Adam Friedman released a story in the Jackson Sun about an event that happened 132 years, where Eliza Woods, a black woman, was dragged out of her jail cell in Jackson, hanged and shot in front of the Madison County Courthouse.

According to the paper she was accused of poisoning her employer. Also according to the author, three years later her employer’s husband admitted to the poisoning.

The Sun continues by explaining that Woods, along with two black men, John Brown and Frank Ballard, are three of the identified individuals lynched in Madison County, according to the Jackson Madison County Community Remembrance Project.

The remembrance project proposed to the Madison County Commission’s Property Committee that the county allow them place a marker and plaque on the courthouse property memorializing Woods, Brown and Ballard, and discussing the history of lynchings in the county.

The next line is where we part ways.

The marker and plaque would be paid for by the Equal Justice Initiative, who works with community remembrance projects across the nation. The only cost to the county would be the 18 inches of space required to put the marker in the ground.

We believe that the cost, which would be un-measurable as far the human effect and it would be much greater than 18″.

You have to remember that lynching is the practice of murder by a group of people by extrajudicial action. It is a summary execution in which a person is accused of a crime and immediately killed without benefit of a full and fair trial. Summary executions are illegal, as it violates the right of the accused to a fair trial. Almost every constitution or legal systems based on common law, including our own, prohibit execution without the decision and sentence of a competent judge and jury. Without a doubt, it is a horrible event.

According to the Tuskegee Institute, 4,743 people were lynched between 1882 and 1968 in the United States, including 3,446 black Americans and 1,297 whites Americans.

In California and the Old West lynchings were common place, especially of Latinos, although they represented less than 10% of the national total. Native Americans and Asian Americans were also lynched. Other ethnicities, including Finnish-Americans, Jewish-Americans, German-Americans and Italian-Americans were also lynched occasionally.

There is no count of recorded lynchings which claims to be precise, and the numbers vary depending on the sources but that is a lot of injustice doled out. It has been said that in this state alone, during a period of time in our history, Tennessee had a least a lynching ever week.

And there are those in the county that wish to immortalize, violence, hate, murder and racial distrust.

We find that difficult to understand considering all the good that has happened our history.

Samuel McElwee was born a slave in 1857 in Madison County, Tennessee. His parents were Robert and Georgianna McElwee. He was a lawyer and the most influential Republican party leader in Haywood County, Tennessee during Reconstruction. McElwee was the first African American to serve three terms in legislature

Sidney Poitier wins best actor for Lilies of the Field. 1963

Edward William Brooke III becomes the first black senator (Massachusetts) since Reconstruction. Aug. 31, Thurgood Marshall takes his seat as the first African-American justice of the United States Supreme Court. 1967

Charles Gordone wins the Pulitzer Prize for drama for his play No Place to Be Somebody. 1970

Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron hits his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s longstanding record. 1974

Arthur Ashe becomes the first African-American male to win the British Men’s Singles championship at Wimbledon. 1975

The eighth and final episode of the mini-series, Roots, based on Alex Haley’s novel, airs, receiving the highest ratings for a single program. 1977

Carl Lewis wins four gold medals at the L.A. Olympics, matching Jesse Owens’ record of 1936. 1984

Frederick Drew Gregory becomes the first African American to command a space shuttle, the Discovery. 1989

Venus Williams becomes the first black woman to win the Women’s Singles title at Wimbledon since Althea Gibson in 1957 and 1958 2000

In 2002, Halle Berry becomes the first African-American female to win an Academy Award for Best Actress; Denzel Washington becomes second African-American male to win Best Actor.

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