NAACP Memorializes Travis County Lynching at Wesley United Methodist Church
Words by Jessi Devenyns Photos Courtesy of Equal Justice Initiative & East End Cultural Heritage District
History is not a fairytale. Unfortunately, there is no disclaimer at the end that indicates no people or animals were harmed in the making.
Although it is often written down in a book and catalogues events that occurred in a time and place far, far away, one must remember that the characters and events in our story are real. From notable Confederate military men to champions of the Civil Rights Movement, Austin has diligently recorded and accordingly commemorated or condemned the events of its past. Until recently, however, there was one notable exception to this archive of collective memory: lynching.
Albeit disturbing, it is no secret that between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights era, lynchings – legal or otherwise – occurred throughout the South, including Travis County. In order to memorialize the lynching victims of Travis County in our collective memory, the NAACP will install the first plaque in the state of Texas at the Wesley United Methodist Church on December 16 from 1 pm to 3 pm.
Though this will be the first plaque of its kind in Texas, it is not the only plaque to be erected in the South. The December ceremony at the church is part of a larger initiative begun by Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative out of Montgomery, Alabama that seeks to reconcile our country’s history of lynching through remembrance. According to a report he released to outline the intention of his initiative to memorialize the terrible crimes of this period, he explained, “Creating a formal space to memorialize mass-violence can help to establish trust between communities and build faith in government institutions.”
Besides restoring faith again in our government, remembering those who suffered is critical to ensuring that the victims stay in our collective conscious and we offer a full, unedited, and colorful representation of our history to the residents of Austin.
The December 16 ceremony is free and open to the public.