WE HAVE THE POWER TO REWRITE THE ENDING TO HISTORY'S STORIES
The Oregon Remembrance Project (ORP) was started in 2018 to help communities in Oregon unearth stories of injustice and undergo the necessary truth telling and repair required to reconcile instances of historical harm.
This work began in Coos Bay, OR with the impossible question, "How do you reconcile a lynching?"
COMMUNITY REMEMBRANCE PROJECT
The Equal Justice Initiative (Montgomery, AL) has documented nearly 6,500 lynchings of African Americans between the 1865-1950. At least one lynching of an African American occurred in Oregon. His name was Alonzo Tucker and he was lynched in Coos Bay, OR in 1902 in front of a crowd of 300. ORP partnered with the Equal Justice Initiative to complete their Community Remembrance Project, which aims to work in the communities where the lynchings of African Americans took place to find healing and reconciliation through a sober reflection on history.
How do you reconcile a lynching?
It starts with remembrance. For three years, ORP, the Coos History Museum, and the City of Coos Bay worked to memorialize Alonzo Tucker, Oregon's only documented African American victim of lynching, into the collective memory and collective consciousness of Oregon. This work began February 29, 2020 with a soil collection ceremony for Alonzo Tucker near the spot where he was killed. Two jars of soil were collected. One was sent back to a museum in Montgomery and the other was put on display at the Coos History Museum. On June 19, 2021, a historical marker was installed in Coos Bay to honor Alonzo Tucker and the thousands of other African Americans who were lynched in the United States. This historical marker has become a permanent fixture in the geographic memory of Coos Bay and represents a community's intentional commitment to finding justice for historical injustice.
How do you reconcile a lynching?
It starts with remembrance, then it moves to repair. The era of lynching may be behind us, but its legacy remains in front of us. At the same time lynchings in the United States were going down, state-sanctioned executions were going up. During the 1930's two-thirds of all executions in the United States were of African Americans. Between 1910-1950, despite making up only 22% of the South's population, African Americans accounted for 75% of all those executed in this region. Today African Americans make up 13% of the population but 41% of those who are death row. We are too busy asking ourselves the question "Does this person deserve to die for their crimes?" that we haven't asked ourselves the question "Do we deserve to kill?" In order to truly find reconciliation for lynching, we must repair the fundamental question of who our society believes deserves death because the answer continues to be disproportionately African American.
Community Reconciliation Project
The Community Reconciliation Project aims to help other individuals and communities in Oregon ask their own impossible questions because the search for an answer results in an impossible transformation. Interested in bringing the Community Reconciliation Project to your community? ORP will support you through this process of truth and reconciliation.
The Community Reconciliation Project has already begun in Grants Pass, OR.