Marker memorializing lynching victims to be unveiled in Tuscaloosa Monday

Updated: Mar. 6, 2017 at 11:41 AM CST
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UA students Libby Hufham and Ellie Bowers. (Source: Terri Brewer/WBRC)
UA students Libby Hufham and Ellie Bowers. (Source: Terri Brewer/WBRC)

TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - The Equal Justice Initiative, along with members of the Tuscaloosa community and University of Alabama students, will unveil an historical marker Monday at 4:45 p.m., memorializing victims of lynching in the Tuscaloosa area.

The marker is located in front of the old Tuscaloosa Jail, at the corner of 6th Street and 28th Avenue, near Capitol Park. Specifically, the marker memorializes eight African American men, who were victims of lynching between 1884 and 1933. Leading up to Monday's unveiling, members of a new history class at UA have been studying the history of lynching, and uncovering details about the lives of the men memorialized by the marker.

In one of the cases, Dennis Cross, a black man who was paralyzed from the waist down, was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman in Tuscaloosa. Though his physical condition shed doubt on the accusation, he was arrested. After bailing out of the Tuscaloosa County Jail, a mob of white men dressed as police officers came to his house on Sept. 24, 1933, dragged from his home and shot him more than 20 times.

"A lot of times people ask us, 'Why are you studying this?'" UA Student Libby Hufham said. "And I think it's definitely important to think about what does it do for our future generations if we leave these unjust and dark times of history unacknowledged."

"By doing this, it's kind of like affirming the humanity of those who were criminalized and dehumanized in this time."

UA student Ellie Bowers, also a student in the class, said it is meaningful to be doing work that will forever be recognized in Tuscaloosa.

"It's cool to not only leave our impact, but also to engage the Tuscaloosa community in the history that their community does have, and also how can we move forward from the history now being brought to light," Bowers said.

Bowers also says the era's reporting and documentation of African Americans has complicated the task of learning more about the lynching victims. For instance, she says she has found four conflicting stories on what happened to the man she has been researching.

"Because of different reporting, in different places, we don't even know at this point what is true and what is not true because finding documentation to corroborate things, especially about African Americans at this time, is extremely difficult."

Hufham notes the memorialization of the Confederacy and Civil War in Alabama. She says she is glad to be part of putting public focus on another part of history.
"It's important and neat that the other side of the story is starting to be told and memorialized around campus and around Alabama."

Following the unveiling, the community is invited to a short program commemorating the importance of the marker. The program will begin at 5:30 p.m. at First African Baptist Church, located at 2621 Stillman Blvd.

The marker is part of EJI's Community Remembrance Project, which erects historical markers at lynching sites.

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