Today is a significant day in Atlanta history, although most people are probably unaware of it. From September 22-24,1906, was the Atlanta Race Massacre. When we hear the words “race riot,” my guess is that for most of us we picture our African American brothers and sisters doing the rioting. Most often in our nation’s history, that has not been the case.
The Atlanta Massacre began when a newspaper printed (unsubstantiated) reports that four white women had been sexually assaulted by a Black man. The paper printed extra editions that were distributed widely downtown. The response was swift. Within hours, 10,000 to 15,000 white men and boys, many of them armed, were roaming the streets of Atlanta looking for Black people to attack.
Black men and women were pulled from street cars, dragged from the post office, pulled out of offices, or attacked walking down the street. They were hanged from lamp posts, shot, beaten, and stabbed. The white mobs moved from downtown into black communities, destroying homes and businesses.
By the time the violence ended on September 24, an untold number of people had been killed. The official count is 25; unofficial (and likely accurate) counts are 100 or more. As far as I can tell no one was prosecuted for these crimes.
I grew up in Atlanta, attended public schools through high school, and a state university. Yet I never heard one word about this part of our city’s history until I read about it at the 100th anniversary. History is written by those in power, and the dark side of their deeds are conveniently omitted. Public school curriculums are now supposed to include this history.
The Atlanta Massacre is not the only one that is largely unknown. When I visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, also known as the lynching memorial, I was wandering through, looking at the metal columns hanging from the ceiling, one for each county in which a lynching had occurred, inscribed with the names of those who died.
I began talking to a docent, who asked me if I wanted to see the heaviest column. Since all the columns are exactly the same size, her question confused me. But I followed her to the column for Phillips County, Arkansas. Inscribed on it was the Elaine Massacre of 1919, in which more than 250 Black Americans were massacred by mobs of white men.
I was stunned. A massacre of 250 American citizens and I had never heard of it. Since then I’ve asked many people, including teachers of American history, if they have heard of the Elaine Massacre. Not a single person has.
Atlanta and Arkansas aren’t the only ones. Christine Bird recently sent me a map of racial pogroms, massacres of Blacks by whites, in this country. There were 25 of them. Most were in the South, but they also occurred in New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The most recent was in 2015 in Charleston, when nine members of Mother Emmanuel Church were massacred by a white man, who had been warmly welcomed into a church Bible study.
The legacies from these pogroms is long, As we can tell from watching or reading the news every day, our nation still struggles with racial injustice and systemic racism. Being educated about and understanding our history is not anti-American, as our president has recently said. It is vital to helping forge a better, more just, future, one that brings us closer to the kingdom of God.
If you’d like to know more about the Atlanta Race Massacre, you can attend this online panel discussion this evening. I’m sorry for sending it out so late. I had intended to do so earlier.
On September 24 at 6:30, The Fulton County Remembrance Coalition (FCRC), The Center for Civil and Human Rights and Compassionate Atlanta will convene a virtual panel discussion on the Atlanta Massacre of 1906.
The panelists will explore the social and political environment of the time, the four days of violence against Black Atlantans, and the legacy the massacre created. Panelists include Dr. Maurice Hobson, Ayinde Summers, and Forrest Evans. FCRC is engaged in the Equal Justice Initiative’sHistorical Marker Project and is working towards installing a marker in remembrance of the, at least, 25 Black men and women lynched during the Atlanta Massacre of 1906.
The event is free and you can register here.
We recently received word from Bishop Wright that churches may now hold outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people (no more). The gatherings can last no longer than an hour.
I’ve thought about outdoor services, but with the technological logistics of live-streaming that just will not work for Sunday morning. But this loosening of the restrictions does mean that we can have an outdoor blessing of the animals!
Here are the details and the Covid protocols we must follow:
The service will be in the Beech Grove at 2 p.m. Sunday, October 4. All pets must be on leashes or in carriers.
The Covid protocols limit the number of two-legged attendees to 50 (including me and helpers). The service will be strictly the Blessing of the Animals, not a Eucharist as we have done in the past.
Masks are required for everyone. Social distancing is also required. We will have spots marked for each family/household. This is to help ensure social distancing and to give us a “seating chart” to use if someone later tests positive for Covid and we need to do contact tracing. We ask you bring your own chairs or blankets, or be willing to stand. We cannot serve any food or drink. The building will not be open.
Of course if you’ve had any Covid symptoms we ask that you not come. And if you develop any symptoms in the days following the service we ask that you let me know so that we can let others know they may need to be tested.
Because of the attendance limitations we ask that you sign up by October 2 at the link below. We need to know how many people from each household will be attending.
I’m sorry that we need so many guidelines and restrictions, but they are necessary to ensure everyone’s safety. And I am delighted that I’ll get a chance to see at least some of you!!!
And finally, thank you for all your messages of concern and prayers for my father. He came home from the hospital yesterday. He is 92 and declining, although mentally he is as sharp as ever. My mother will be 89 next week and it has become clear that being the primary caretaker is too much for her. My brothers and I are evaluating what kind of help is needed and trying to arrange for it. And we are all committed to spending more time there. That means I will be going up to Chattanooga more than usual, and may be out of the office at times. Thank you for understanding and keeping us in your prayers.