Neither forgotten nor repeated

Marker unveiled at site of lynching tree

Photos by St. Clair Murraine

The crowd settles in before unveiling of the historic marker.
Attorney Mutaqee Akbar and his son, Madu, joined the crowd near the “lynching tree” last Saturday.

Hundreds of Tallahassee residents turned out last Saturday afternoon for a historical marker dedication, remembering the “lynching tree” where four men’s lives were taken near Cascades Park. The event was put on by the Tallahassee Community Remembrance Project.

A crowd began to gather at least an hour before the event was scheduled to begin with an outdoor ceremony. However, inclement weather forced it into an event room at the AC Hotel by Marriott Tallahassee Universities at the Capitol, where many people lined the walls with no place to sit.

The crowd later flowed back out for the unveiling on the huge oak tree.

 The first speaker, Byron Greene, a co-convener of the Tallahassee Community Remembrance Project, put the reason for the gather into perspective. 

It remembered lynching victims Pierce Taylor, Mick Morris, Richard Hawkins and Ernest Ponder. The tree is located off Gaines Street near the intersection with Gadsden Street.

“We gather here today for a most important date; recognizing these four men – Black men whose lives were taken vigilante killings also known as lynching,” Green said. “… Let today be a day solemn, yet sacred celebration.”

The effort that led to the dedication last Saturday started four years ago. The local organization got plenty of support from the Equal Justice Initiative. The Montgomery, Ala.-based EJI was presented by Kiara Boone and Trey Walk, both who gave brief remarks during the hour-long ceremony.

Several community partners were involved with the project. As many as 45 mostly faith-based partners were involved, according the Blan Teagle, co-convener of the Tallahassee Community Remembrance Project.

Other speakers included Leon County Commission chairman Rick Minor, Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil, and Darryl Jones, vice chair of Leon County School Board.

While the huge oak tree, which dates back to the 1800s stands alone, there were several other huge oak trees that were removed to make way for the hotel just a few yards adjacent to the “lynching tree.”

Third-grader Carter Nixon also played the keyboard and led the audience into singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Takeshia Stokes performed an acapella rendition of “Strange Fruit.”

Later, city commissioner Dianne William-Cox reminded the crowd that the song was once banned. “Someone went to their grave, fighting the FBI, because they continued to sing it here in the South,” she said, adding that there were many more than four men who were lynched.

“We must continue to remember,” she said, “and we must never ever, ever, every let this happen again.”

— St. Clair Murraine

The “lynching tree” is located off Gaines Street, near the Gadsden Street intersection.
Takeshia Stokes performed “Strange Fruit.”

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