Lynching in America (and in Roswell, GA)

About a year ago I noticed this new, two-sided historical marker had been installed in Roswell, Georgia’s Riverside Park. It’s part of a larger program by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to install such markers around the country. This particular sign is a sobering reminder of the lynching of Mack Henry Brown in 1936.

Not long after this marker was installed, I noticed it went missing. It vaguely occurred to me that some people might object to this kind of public memorial, either out of racial hatred or out of resistance to having grisly reminders erected in otherwise tranquil park space. In other words, political pressure and/or vandalism couldn’t be ruled out. There was some city landscape work and park-related construction going on in the immediate area, so I concluded it was just an innocent, temporary removal.

Fast forward a year, and the marker was still missing. So, I sent an email to the Fulton County Remembrance Coalition (which partnered with the EJI on the marker), and they responded that the marker “was damaged by a lawnmower and Covid created some delays in the remanufacturing process.” Today I discovered that the marker had been reinstalled (with large, protective rocks encircling the post to prevent accidental collisions). A rededication ceremony is set for Saturday, March 26th.

Roswell is a relatively moderate and progressive city today, but there are other reminders of our dark past. Not 20 yards from the Mack Brown marker is another one memorializing the “Trail of Tears,” i.e., the Indian Removal of 1838. And less than a mile away is another memorial: a broken pillar that remembers more than 400 mill workers (mostly women) who were “deported” by the Union army in 1864 (the textile mills that employed them were destroyed as part of General Sherman’s wider effort to cripple the South’s war-making capacity). Many of these women were dumped at Louisville, Kentucky; most never made it back home.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no memorials, public or private, that glorify the Confederacy in Roswell, Georgia.

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