The names of 600 victims of lynchings in Georgia were read aloud on Nov. 2 during a service at the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing.
Four bronze panels were unveiled at the service that are inscribed with the names of each person known to have been lynched in Georgia between 1866 and 1964, along with an acknowledgement that other persons were lynched, but that their number and identities remain unknown.
“The service concludes the Diocese’s three-year commitment to making pilgrimages, marker placements, memorial services and educational programs to remember the lynched and to explore lynching’s support of the terrorism associated with racism,” said Dr. Catherine Meeks, executive director of the Center.
“The purpose of this work is help us to make the connection between the intersection of slavery, lynching, the prison industrial complex, the death penalty and 21st Century police killings which are known as extrajudicial killings,” Meeks said. “Along with this we create the possibility for healing to occur as we remember and call the names of the lynched and move away from the state of denial that makes healing impossible.”
To help members of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta to prepare for the upcoming pilgrimage in 2016, they were encouraged to read and discuss Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Attorney Bryan Stevenson who has been successful in getting more than 100 innocent persons off death row. This study helped to clarify the intersections that are usually ignored. The study was capped in September 2016 with a presentation by Stevenson that filled Atlanta’s St. Luke's Episcopal Church with one thousand persons and many of them joined the first pilgrimage.
The Diocese sponsored the first pilgrimage in October 2016 to the Douglass Theater in Macon, Georgia, where a 1922 lynch mob dumped the body of John “Cockey” Glover. A marker in front of the historically African American theatre was dedicated commemorating the lynching of Glover and 14 other men in the Macon and Middle Georgia area along with an unknown number of others whose names may never be documented. The 175 people attending the pilgrimage then went to the nearby Tubman Museum, which focuses on African-American art, history and culture, where participants viewed historical photos of lynchings across the country, including Minnesota, Wyoming and Oklahoma. Facilitators worked with small groups to continue the dialogue.
“Though the day’s activities generated a wide range of emotions from rage to grief, everyone agreed that it was a powerful and important day and it was wonderful affirmation that our intention to do this over the next two years was a good one,” Meeks said.
In 2017, parishes in the Diocese were invited to read Living into God's Dream: Dismantling Racism in America, a book of essays on race that acknowledge past gains and current challenges edited by Dr. Catherine Meeks in the hope of fostering new and more robust conversations on race.
A pilgrimage on October 28, 2017, to Athens, Georgia included a service and workshops and dedication of a marker identifying 56 martyrs lynched in Clarke County and surrounding counties along with those whose names remain unknown.
For almost two decades, the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta has required anti-racism training and created a commission to accomplish that mandate. The work of that commission was folded into the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing at its creation in 2018.
Dismantling Racism training offered by the Center seeks to increase "racial healing and reconciliation," according to the Center’s website. Training sessions are offered several times a year and is required for all Episcopal parish clergy and lay leaders.
The Diocese of Atlanta is proud to be home to this new resource for the worldwide Episcopal Church, said Bishop Robert C. Wright. “The creation of the Center aligns with The Episcopal Church’s and our Diocese’s commitment to reach across the borders and boundaries that divide the human family of God,” Wright said. Located at the Atlanta University Center among Morehouse, Spelman and Clark Atlanta campuses on the West side of Atlanta, the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing provides Episcopal parishes and dioceses locally, nationally and internationally with the support to address racism head-on through compassionate truth-telling and racial healing.
The Diocese of Atlanta encompasses 114 worshiping communities throughout middle and north Georgia. For more information about the Diocese and its parishes and ministries, go to www.episcopalatlanta.org. For information about news and events in the Diocese, go to https://connecting.episcopalatlanta.org.
PLEASE NOTE: If you plan to attend the event, please note that parking is scarce. This event requires advanced registration at Calling Their Names: Remembering Georgia's Lynched and that there is a $10 registration fee which covers the cost of lunch.
LOCATION: The Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing, 807 Atlanta Student Movement Boulevard, Atlanta, Georgia 30314.
TIME: November 2, 2018, 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.