FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The City of Springfield and Greene County, as members of the Springfield-Greene County Remembrance Coalition, will host a soil collection ceremony at 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 19 at Park Central Square. Soil collected from the site, at which three men – Fred Coker, Horace B. Duncan and Will Allen – were lynched in 1906, will be provided in separate and labeled jars to Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City for an exhibit recognizing the victims of lynching across the state of Missouri and creating a memorial that acknowledges the horrors of racial injustice.
A similar ceremony took place in 2018, with soil samples provided to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) museum in Montgomery, Alabama. In 2015, EJI began speaking to community leaders about the need to acknowledge and discuss the history of lynching and racial terror in America. They published a report after documenting hundreds of previously unrecognized lynchings across the American South. EJI staff outlined an ambitious campaign to recognize the victims of lynching and racial terror in America.
“We bear witness to the devastation these murders wrought upon individuals, families, and our community. We invite the public to join our effort to help this nation confront and recover from tragic histories of racial violence and terrorism and to create an environment where there can truly be equal justice for all,” said Mayor Ken McClure.
A small group will gather at Park Central Square for the ceremony, but the general public is encouraged to watch a live video stream at springfieldmo.gov, Facebook.com/CityofSGF and AfricanAmericanHheritageTrailSGF.org due to COVID-19 safety restrictions limiting mass gatherings.
On Good Friday, April 13, 1906, Springfield and Greene County had a thriving population of African American professionals, business owners and community leaders. Tragically, by the early hours of Easter Sunday, the city had been overwhelmed by hate and violence because of a false allegation that two Black men, Horace B. Duncan and Fred Coker, had assaulted a white woman.
A lynch mob was formed, and the two men had been taken to the city jail for their protection. A third young Black man, William Allen, was already in the jail. The mob broke into the jail and took Duncan and Coker to the city square where they were hanged from the Gottfried Tower, an iron structure topped with a replica of the Statue of Liberty.
Not satisfied with lynching the two men, the mob returned to the jail and brought Allen to be lynched. By Easter Sunday morning, all that remained was a pile of ashes and the men’s burned bodies. A crowd of thousands had watched this horror.
Fearing further violence, many African Americans left the city, some never to return. After the lynching, a grand jury met and indicted 18 men who were involved in the incident. One man was brought to trial, but no one was ever convicted of this atrocity.
About our nation’s history of terror lynchings
Between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States. Lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized Black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials.
“Terror lynchings” peaked between 1880 and 1940 and claimed the lives of African American men, women, and children who were forced to endure the fear, humiliation, and barbarity of this widespread phenomenon unaided. This was terrorism.
The Equal Justice Initiative has documented more than 4000 racial terror lynchings in 12 Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950. Lynching profoundly impacted race relations in this country and shaped the geographic, political, social, and economic conditions of African Americans in ways that are still evident today. Terror lynchings fueled the mass migration of millions of Black people from the South into urban areas in the North and West throughout the first half of the 20th century. Lynching created a fearful environment in which racial subordination and segregation were maintained with limited resistance for decades. Most critically, lynching reinforced a legacy of racial inequality that has never been adequately addressed in America.
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For more information, contact Cora Scott, City of Springfield Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement at 417-380-3352 or [email protected].