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‘This Is The City’s History’: Jacksonville City Council President Wants Lynching Marker Downtown

Lynsey Weatherspoon
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is dedicated to victims of lynching. The memorial includes pillars or columns for every county where lynchings were uncovered. Duval County is one of them.

On June 19, the national anniversary celebrating of the end of slavery, Jacksonville City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche said she intends to file legislation setting up a strategy for the city to claim a piece of its painful history. In many southern cities, the celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened in Montgomery, Alabama in late April. It was the culmination of an almost decade-long process begun by the Equal Justice Initiative.

According to its website, EJI “investigated thousands of racial terror lynchings, many of which had never been documented,” before publishing a report and commissioning the installation of the memorial, which includes 800 six-by-eight pillars or columns for every county in the American south where lynchings were uncovered — Duval County is one of them.

EJI has hung the pillars, or slabs, from the memorial’s ceiling and duplicates are laid flat outside the building like coffins with the intent for counties to claim them and bring them home for display, an act of recognition and Brosche said, reconciliation.

“I believe it is what a number of people have been asking for, which is to tell our whole story and that it is part of our story and I think it’s difficult to have conservations on these topics and this memorial can help the community have the conversations that have been as challenging as they have in the past,” Brosche said.

Brosche said she intends to file a measure creating a trust fund where the public can donate to in order to pay for the relocation of Duval’s marker and another task force that would be in charge of handling the logistics. Although she’s open to a number of suggestions, she’d like to see it prominently displayed in Hemming Park, visible to City Hall.

She said she’s heard from constituents who would want the memorial to receive the appropriate deference and not just be “plopped” in the park. Brosche said she agrees.

“The reality is that this is the city’s history and the city should take a lead role in claiming our history and making sure that we install the memorial that is prominent in the city,” she said.

Brosche, who after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned deadly, asked for an inventory on Confederate monuments said although this is a separate project, it does fulfill the need to contextualize Hemming’s memorial to the Confederate soldier.

The city council president, who will conclude her leadership of the council at the end of this month, initially took a strong stand for “respectfully removing” and “relocating” the city’s Confederate memorials to places like museums. She has since come to the conclusion that just isn’t feasible in Jacksonville.

“There’s a desire to make our parks more welcoming to everyone in the city. At the same time, movement or relocation doesn’t seem to be an option that the entire community supports,” she said.

Brosche is setting about claiming Duval’s lynching marker as the city’s Task Force on Civil Rights History nears the end of its tenure, when a report detailing Jacksonville’s African-American and Civil Rights history will be submitted to City Council. The task force will also recommend steps the city can take to create its own Civil Rights Trail and Brosche said the pillar could be part of that.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.