Levine Museum of the New South invites visitors to begin a community conversation on the themes raised in a powerful new exhibit Legacy of Lynching, now open at the Museum.
Legacy of Lynching was created by Montgomery, Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and is part of its national effort to raise awareness – and learn from – this disturbing chapter in the post-Civil War South. Levine Museum is just the third venue in the United States to host the exhibit, behind the Brooklyn Museum and Haverford College.
Legacy of Lynching features videotaped oral testimony from descendants of lynching victims who describe the enduring effects of these violent acts on their families and communities. The exhibit also tells the stories of two known victims of lynching in Mecklenburg County.
Nineteen-year-old Joe McNeely was shot outside Charlotte’s former Good Samaritan Hospital, where Bank of America Stadium now stands, on Aug. 26, 1913, by an angry mob of 35 men who forcefully dragged him from his hospital bed into the street.
Another Mecklenburg lynching took place just north of the city, where black tenant farmer Willie McDaniel was found in a wooded area with visible signs of having been hung from a tree on June 29, 1929.
“Our city and country are grappling with more honest ways to deal with our past, and this exhibit is meant to spur difficult and uncomfortable conversations on how far we’ve really come,” Willie Griffin, Levine Museum historian, said.
The Equal Justice Initiative is a private, nonprofit law organization that has documented more than 4,000 lynchings in the United States between 1877 and 1950, including 102 that took place in North Carolina. Legacy of Lynching is a component of its “Community Remembrance Project,” which encourages counties, such as Mecklenburg, to install permanent memorials and historic markers denoting the sites where these abominable acts took place. Community members throughout Mecklenburg County are currently exploring that possibility.
“The more we know about the history of Charlotte, however painful, the more we as a community can continue to take the necessary steps to understand how we got here and become more informed, responsible citizens going forward,” Griffin said.
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