The Southern Poverty Law Center has just announced that, for the first time ever, there are more than a thousand active hate groups operating in the United States.
Photographer Jessica Ingram has been memorializing the institutionalized hate of Jim Crow America. Five years ago, she began photographing mundane places — a Tasti-Freeze parking lot, a boat dock on a river, a suburban street — the kinds of places that wouldn’t cause you to turn your head if you were driving by. In her project A Civil Rights Memorial, it’s the captions that stick out, not the images themselves, and that’s kind of the point.
The captions describe one civil rights atrocity after another, horrible pieces of American history that often go un-memorialized. No placard or monument marking what happened there. No reminder of the institutionalized hate of yesterday. Ingram’s project makes me wonder if we’re bound to repeat our ugly history by deliberately burying it. Here’s an excerpt from her artist statement, and her photos and captions are below.
Five years ago, I wandered downtown Montgomery in the sweltering heat, picked up a walking tour trail, and found myself facing a large, ornate fountain, situated on a brick pavilion. A Historical Site sign said that I was standing in the former Court Square Slave Market, where slave traders sold men, women, and children to the highest bidder. It presented cold hard facts, detailing dollar values for slaves at the time and how none were given last names.
I was speechless. The fountain was erected at a time when this site was not considered for it’s history, the sign placed in a gesture of reconsideration. Moreover, the language printed on the sign was so void of sentiment – in no way testifying to the experience and meaning. I watched people pass by and wondered if they knew or thought of the history beneath their feet. Curious about what I might find at other historical sites (marked or unmarked) through the South, I began my search. I traveled to Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, and documented sites where Civil Rights era atrocities, Klan activities, and slave trade occurred…
Jackson’s gravestone, which was added to the site by the Perry County Civic League, has been marked by shotgun fire.
On February 18, 1965, Jimmie Lee Jackson was beaten and shot by an Alabama state trooper as he participated in a walk from the Zion United Methodist Church in Marion, Alabama to the Perry County Courthouse where James Orange, a civil rights worker, was being held. He was killed while protecting his mother and grandfather from being attacked by troopers. Jackson’s murder was one of the events that inspired the marches from Selma to Montgomery, and the eventual passage of the Voting Rights Act.
On February 27, 1967, Wharlest Jackson, the treasurer of the local NAACP chapter, was killed by a car bomb left by Klansmen, the day he received a promotion to a position formerly reserved for whites. His son, Wharlest Jackson, Jr., heard the blast from his home nearby, and rushed to the scene to find his father dead in the road. No one has been convicted for this crime.
In 1915, the second Ku Klux Klan was founded atop Stone Mountain. Nathanial Bedford Forrest administered an oath and a cross was burned. In 1975, the Klan held a Labor Day Rally meeting there, burning 60-foot crosses atop the mountain. “Let Freedom Ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
Virgil Ware, a 13-year-old boy, was killed on this site, on September 15, 1963, while riding on the handlebars of his 16-year-old brother’s bicycle, near his family‘s home.
While riding by on a motorbike with Michael Lee Farley, 16-year old Larry Joe Sims, shot at the Ware brothers, shooting Virgil twice.
Sims and Farley had just attended a segregationist rally. Farley and Sims were charged with first-degree murder, but an all-white jury convicted them on the lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter. Judge Wallace Gibson suspended the boys’ sentences and gave them two years probation.
In 1997, Michael Lee Farley called the Ware Family to apologize. Sims called in 2003.
Ware was murdered six hours after the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed. In 2004, a sign with Virgil Ware’s name on it was erected on the street where Virgil Ware grew up, and where the Ware Family still lives.
In 1957, Willie Edwards, a truck driver, was stopped by four Klansmen while on his way to work. They believed Edwards was dating a white woman. They beat Edwards and forced him at gunpoint to jump from the Tyler Goodwin Bridge in Montgomery County, Alabama. His body was found three months later.