Activists work to commemorate ignored part of Memphis history

Activists work to commemorate ignored part of Memphis history
Lynching of Elle Persons (Source: NCRM)
Lynching of Elle Persons (Source: NCRM)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Some Memphians are trying to make sure a dark chapter of our history is not forgotten.

There are about 200 historical markers in Memphis, but only one of them commemorates a lynching: the People's Grocery marker at Walker Avenue and Mississippi Boulevard.

Activists are trying to change that.

Lynching Sites Project said each of the more than 30 recorded lynchings that happened in Shelby County since the Civil War should be recognized and remembered.

"Because they were not acknowledged, it was like their lives did not matter," Iris Love Scott said. "But in fact, these people were important, and they led to where we are today."

Elle Persons is one of the people Scott says has been forgotten. Persons was accused of killing a 16-year-old white woman. After being accused, he was lynched along the Wolf River while 5,000 people watched.

Fifty of the 5,000 people who watched Persons lynching were Central High School students. Now, students at Central want to make amends.

"We want to do everything we can to right this wrong as much as possible," Central High School student body president Myles Franklin said.  Franklin and Central High school are working with the Lynching Sites Project to bring awareness to Persons' death.

Franklin was one of several people who gathered Thursday at the National Civil Rights Museum to honor Persons.

"Understand how we can apply this history to our present so that we can move forward and move on with making sure that these racial injustices or nothing similar to them ever happen again," Franklin said.

Plans are in the works to have a historical marker placed in Arlington next year to honor the life of another Shelby County lynching victim.

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