Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) has documented 15 black American victims of racial terror lynched in Ohio. Locally, the death of Christopher Davis in 1881 from the former Southside Bridge near Richland Avenue will be memorialized in a Soil Collection Ceremony at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14.
The ceremony will take place one end of the lower-level parking lot of Ohio University’s Baker Center.
The Community Remembrance Project, a program of EJI’s Lynching in America, will honor Davis by retrieving soil from the approximate location of the hanging, according to a news release. An exhibit chronicling the event will be on display at the Southeast Ohio History Center at West State and North Congress streets in Athens.
Davis was one of the recorded black Americans lynched in Ohio between 1877 and 1950.
“Like nearly all documented lynching victims, Davis did not stand trial and was killed by a mob that wasn’t held accountable for his death,” Destinee Jaram, a volunteer soil collector, said in the news release. Jaram is a Scripps College of Communication intern working with the local Mt. Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society, a co-sponsor of EJI’s Community Remembrance Project.
Others scheduled speaker/attendees to the Soil Collector Ceremony include Athens Mayor Steve Patterson and historians Tom O’Grady of the Southeast Ohio History Center and Ada Woodson Adams of the Multicultural Genealogical Center (MGC) in Chesterhill, Ohio. Assistant clinical professor Jennifaye Brown, diversity and inclusion chair of OU’s College of Health Sciences & Profession, will deliver a tribute to black Americans used for experimental science following such lynching incidents.
OU acting master’s student Kezia Waters will present a Christopher Davis reflection written by emerging playwright Elijah Bowmen, the release said. Athens Poet Laureate Kari Gunter-Seymour will contribute an original work to mark the occasion, and song offerings by Sharell Arocho and Joann Wolfe will begin and end the commemoration. Other guest speakers will be announced as they are confirmed, the release said.
In the release, MGC’s Adams said of the lynching incident, “Newspaper accounts from the 1800s report that Davis was accused of raping a white woman in Albany, Ohio.”
At this time in America, according to the EJI Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, nearly 25% of documented hangings occurred when white women accused black men of sexual assault.
“Davis was held in the Athens jail three weeks for the crime without a trial and wrote his wife that he feared violence,” Adams said in the release.
The Mt. Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society is joined by a collective of Ohio Valley organizations supporting the Community Remembrance Project including MGC, the Southeast Ohio History Center and Showing Up for Racial Justice of Southeast Ohio, according to the release.