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Faith of A Mustard Seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington
Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

My trip to the “EJI”- Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery is yet untold.  Begun as my May 1st Column by simply Listing, ONLY listing the names of many of the Persons whose Faces appear on the Walls of the “Reflection Room” in “The Legacy Museum: From Slavery To Mass Incarceration”.  I did say that I spent upward of two hours in that space… writing the uncompleted list that I captured?

Turning now to the “Peace And Justice: Lynching Memorial.” Just as I did on my first visit, I took a snapshot of the “Davidson County, Tennessee” Monument of documented Lynchings.  But now, the outer exhibits were calling me whereas on this trip, time permitted a far more attentive eye.  There is now a section of ‘Bronze?Metal Historical Markers’ as memorial monuments that name and tell the circumstances of Lynched victims which Bryan Stevenson speaks of as ‘Racial Terror’!

While I was coming into a deeper knowledge of the fact that many of the Lynching Monuments had such long lists of Victims, —counties in Alabama, and Mississippi, and Arkansas, I was stopped in my tracks to now see not one, but TWO, Historical Marker Monuments from Lynchings in Davidson County, Nashville, Tennessee.  In following this trail this week, I see, first, that the “HistoricalMarkerDatabase.org” logs the Original Markers, Inscriptions and Locations.

“The Davidson County Jail stood near here, on what was called Water Street, or Front Street, throughout most of the 19th century. Despite the duty of law enforcement to provide custodial protection, the jail was a repeated site of lynchings and violence that devastated the African American community.  On March 25, 1872, a white mob forcibly removed a Black man named David Jones from the jail, shot him twice, and hung him from a lamp post in Public Square. Though police officers cut Mr. Jones down and dispersed the crowd, he died hours later from his injuries.  On the night of April 30, 1875, a mob abducted another Black man named Jo Reed from the county jail and dragged him to the nearby suspension bridge, at the current site of the Woodland Street Bridge. In front of a large crowd of onlookers, Mr. Reed was shot multiple times in the head and hanged from the bridge. His body was abandoned to the Cumberland River after the rope broke and he fell into the water below.  These lynchings were acts of racial terrorism, often committed without intervention by law enforcement officials and commonly left unpunished. Each lynching in Davidson County created trauma and pain, while reinforcing white supremacy and denying African Americans in the community their basic rights. We remember these events in support of justice, human rights, and decency for all.”

These are the Words of one Davidson County historical monument marker, the other of the Lynching of “Henry Grizzard and Ephraim Grizzard”.

“In the spring of 1892, one of the most violent public events in Nashville’s history occurred at this site. On April 24, 1892, two black men were accused of assaulting two white women near Goodlettsville.  Henry Grizzard and Ephraim Grizzard, brothers, were arrested on suspicion, along with three other black men. During this era, the deep racial hostility that permeated Southern society burdened black people with a presumption of guilt that often focused suspicion on black communities after crimes were alleged. Whether evidence supported that suspicion or not. Without a trial, Henry was lynched the next day by white residents of Davidson and Sumner County at Mansker’s Creek.  Ephraim, however, was taken to Nashville’s jail to await trial. On April 30th, leaders of an angry white mob violently abducted Ephraim from the jail and hanged him from the Woodland Street Bridge before piercing his body with hundreds of bullets. Thousands of “well-to-do, respectable citizens” supported lawless mob violence that threatened the black community. Ephraim Grizzard’s body was taken back to Goodlettsville, where it was burned publicly to further terrorize black residents. Black community members who sought to protest and complain about racial terror lynchings were themselves threatened with violence and forced to flee the community, adding to the trauma and tragedy surrounding these lynchings.”

These two, which I first saw in Montgomery as ‘replicas’ of the Original Markers, were placed in Nashville, on Juneteenth 2019 by “We Remember Nashville”, in partnership with the “Equal Justice Initiative” who initiated and funded the project.  Davidson County approved the siting of the markers. It is here that the history of the “Exodusters”, those Black citizens fleeing from this Racial Terror… begins.

As the EJI work in Nashville continues, a recent September 20, 2021 news headline reads “Despite Some Pushback, Cane Ridge Marker Will Publicize More of Nashville’s History of Lynchings”.  15 yr old Samuel Smith was taken from the bed of Nashville General Hospital and Lynched…

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