MOSH Exhibit On America's History Of Lynching Opens Saturday

Aug 22, 2019

Jacksonville’s Museum of Science and History (MOSH) is debuting an exhibit Saturday that examines the country’s - and Jacksonville's - uncomfortable history of lynching and its role in racial injustice.

Called The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America, it follows racially motivated lynchings that emerged after slavery was formally abolished in 1865.

Many of the most violent racist attacks against blacks in America during the 20th century occurred in Florida, according to MOSH.

Among them is what Mosh curator Paul Bourcier describes as a double lynching that occurred a century ago in Jacksonville.

African Americans Bowman Cook and John Morine were killed for allegedly murdering a white man. Bourcier said a mob came to the Duval County jail and took the men to the entrance of Evergreen Cemetery on North Main Street. 

According to Bourcier, the mob “met no resistance on the part of law enforcement.” 

WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union reported they were strung up, shot and tied behind cars that dragged their bodies around town.

"It really was meant to be a warning to an entire population here in Jacksonville —  the black population that is — step out of line and this may happen to you," said Bourcier.

This Jacksonville newspaper story, with a Sept. 8, 1919 dateline, details the lynching of two men, Bowman Cook and John Morine.
Credit The Florida Times-Union

A newspaper headline with a Sept. 8, 1919 dateline read "150 masked men lynch 2 negroes at Jacksonville."

A commemoration of this dark chapter in Jacksonville history will be held on September 8. Jars will be filled with soil collected from the sites of Jacksonville’s lynchings. 

"We have identified the sites, or the approximate sites, of the seven lynchings in Duval County. There will be a number of speakers as well," said Bourcier. 

That legacy of hate has not been fully extinguished, the exhibit asserts. It's designed to provide educational and historical context.

MOSH has partnered with the 904Ward’s Jacksonville Community Remembrance Program (JCRP), which is the local expression of a national Community Remembrance Project organized by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).

EJI is a nonprofit that is seeking to change the narrative about race by fostering a better understanding of the nation’s legacy and a commitment to racial justice.

The exhibit includes narrative text, videos and an interactive map, all provided by EJI and the Brooklyn Museum.

Seven lynchings have been documented over the years in Duval County, according to 904Ward, which said there was an “epidemic of lynchings” that look place across 20 states between 1877 and 1950.  

The MOSH is located at 1025 Museum Circle on Jacksonville's Southbank.
Credit Bill Bortzfield / WJCT News

Exhibition-related programs at MOSH will be part of the events being organized by the JCRP and will include:

  • “Strange Fruit in Florida,” by Dr. Tameka Bradley Hobbs of Florida Memorial University.
  • “Rooted in Duval: History, Memory & Legacy,” a lecture by Dr. David Jamison of Edwards Waters College and Dr. Scott Matthews of Florida State College of Jacksonville on their research on lynching in Jacksonville.
  • An exhibit tour and community discussion led by trained facilitators.
  • “Cultural Conversations: Race Cards,” a program designed to facilitate respectful dialogue around race presented by 904WARD.

Legacy of Lynching will be on display at MOSH from Saturday, Aug. 24 through Dec. 8, 2019 and is included with the regular admission price.  Additional information, including the times and dates for the speakers, will be posted to the MOSH’s website.

In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) tracked 1,020 hate groups across the U.S., including 75 in Florida and 41 in Georgia, ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to skinheads and neo-Nazis.

The report IDed eight organizations active in Jacksonville that the SPLC considers hate groups:

The SPLC also identified the following 21 statewide organizations as hate groups:

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

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