Freedom Rider: How to Remember Lynching


Having a memorial dedicated to our oppression is not a victory in and of itself. Lynch law is still practiced today by police across the country. There may not be a mob invited to a hanging or a burning but the police surely function in that role. Lynching didn’t end and it should not be seen as some sort of anomaly rooted in the distant past. Just as numerous efforts to pass anti-lynching legislation failed in the past, so too have efforts to end the modern day version.

The police are the 21stcentury Ku Klux Klan and white citizens councils and the attempt to control them and get them out of our communities have so far come to naught. The extent of police killing became widely known in 2012 when the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement issued their report on the extra judicial killing of black people. Barack Obama was in office when the extent of the death toll was revealed. But the black president who had the power to use federal prosecution against the police mob instead did nothing.


To this day one party uses racism as an organizing principle. It is the white peoples’ party. The other is a false friend to black people. …the Democrats


For decades black leadership fought unsuccessfully for anti-lynching legislation. Today we fight but still without success for protection from the modern day mob wearing blue uniforms.

The system in this country was built with anti-black racism as its foundation. Generations of our people have struggled mightily against it and studying their successes and failures is essential. …The horror lives on and will continue as long as we remain within the confines of what already oppresses us. We have seen this history and we know how it ends.


  1. Afrofem · · Reply

    Margaret Kimberley makes good points as usual. Where I see things differently is in my opinion that just remembering and memorializing are essential to moving forward. Remembering can be a radical act in itself. That is especially true in a country awash in White Denial. However, as M. Kimberley pointed out, public memorials are not victories.

    A few weeks ago, the LA Times ran a story that highlighted an often buried motive for lynching: economic competition. Black business owners were often targets of violence by White people who disliked seeing Black people succeed in a system rigged against them———–making a lie of the myth of White Supremacy.

    A week after that article was published, a reader offered this opinion:

    “Many sincere white Americans have raised the question of why African Americans have failed to become as successful as other people of color, especially recent immigrants to United States. The article on lynchings sheds some light on the subject.

    The story of the murder of Elmore Bolling, a successful black businessman, by his jealous white neighbor in Alabama in 1949 [he was lynched in 1947] was just a glimpse into a pattern of racist violence that terrorized African Americans for generations. On a broader scale, during the Jim Crow era white Americans destroyed prosperous black businesses in many communities.

    One of the most notorious of such incidents took place in Memphis in 1892. There, a store called People’s Grocery, which was owned by a successful black businessman, competed with a nearby white-owned shop. The People’s Grocery owner and two of his black employees were lynched by white marauders in a horrific assault that reverberated throughout the nation and wiped out the entrepreneurial spirit of many African Americans in Memphis and elsewhere.”

    1. wow. i never heard that story. thanks.

    2. I am so glad she used the term “anti-black racism “. Someone needs to make clear that this is a unique and the most virulent kind of racism unlike anything else on the planet. i know. im being redundant saying the same thing twice.

    3. As I have said elsewhere, my father had to flee his rural home (before I was born) to avoid being lynched. I bet Barack Obama has no stories like that in his family. Probably why he could not relate to modern day outsourced police lynching. That and being a psychopath that has no empathy.

      1. Afrofem · ·

        I didn’t know about your father. Not surprised. There were lynching and family being run out of town stories among my relatives, too.

        Obama was not raised as a Black boy. He never heard the oral histories most Black families pass down from generation to generation.

        Perhaps that is one reason he doesn’t care about the lives of Black folk?

      2. that and being a psychopath

      3. and they dont tell us what they have been thru. our parents. i didnt know that story until i had been an adult for many many tears

  2. Memphis. its no accident that thats where they chose to assassinate King. The klan was born in that vicinity.

  3. i think you agree. i read her as saying its important to have such memorials but its not enough.

  4. Afrofem · · Reply

    To me, the memorials, complete with names, dates and locations are a start. Many Black people are ignorant about that period of history. They know of the lynchings, but not the scope (thousands of men, women and children murdered) or the motivations of the perpetrators. Many White people want to deny what happened and insist that period is “ancient history”. They don’t want to talk about that period since it might implicate great-grandpa and his posse——and by extension, them.

    You can’t act on what you don’t know.

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