In May 1895, an African-American man, Jerico Shivers, was thrown into Pea River in Coffee County with a sinker around his neck by a group of men for an un-tried allegation of rape.
On Sunday, April 8, a few students from the class HIS 2225 African American Experience along with their lecturer, Kathryn Tucker, took part in a soil collection from Coffee County where Shivers was lynched.
Shivers is one of the eight lynching victims in and around Pike County the class is studying this semester.
“Lynching was a racial terror crime in which an individual — not always but often, an African-American man — was killed by a group of people without any kind of legal trial. It peaked in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a part of the consolidation of the Jim Crow system of oppression and segregation,” Tucker said.
“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) has been studying lynching throughout the South.”
On April 26, EJI is opening a museum and memorial in Montgomery, which will display collections of soil from lynching sites all around the South.
Tucker said she wanted her class to participate in the effort to commemorate individuals and the ongoing legacy of lynching.
The class will also put together a small exhibit in the Troy University library for another set of soil collection done for the eight lynching victims they have been studying.
“We are going to write up a report on each of the victims and display that with the soil collections in the Troy University Library,” Tucker said. The display for the library is planned to be ready by April 23.
The class is doing an extensive research on the eight lynching victims through newspaper archives and local histories.
Their findings will be published on alabamamemory.as.ua.edu, a website created by University of Alabama Professor John Giggie and his students.
Tucker said the class has been researching what was going on in the towns and counties during that time period that might have contributed to an atmosphere of racial violence.
According to Tucker, there is a strong understanding in the whole class regarding the project.
“I have been so impressed with their interest and engagement in this project,” Tucker said. “It is not an easy thing to study, so when I told them about it, I expected to get a ‘we don’t really want to study something this horrible,’ but they immediately understood why this is so important to study.”
One of the students, Maya Bell, a freshman computer science major from Montgomery, is related to one of the lynching victims they studied.
“If it wasn’t for Dr. Tucker, I wouldn’t have found out,” Bell said. “Obviously my family told me of it before, but I didn’t know the name and information.”
She also said that the lynching project has opened her eyes about something she wouldn’t really want to know but needed to know.
“I feel like the project is extremely important to kind of keep the lynching victims ‘alive,’” Bell said. “There was really no justice for the family, and the project is kind of a justice in a way.”
Keadra Avan, a junior history education major from Florala, sees the project as a great way to honor the lynching victims in a way that the public has not yet had a chance to witness.
“This project is important for people to see the violence and the hatred these victims faced in the early 1900s, and also to see how far we have come from that century,” Avan said.