At-Large Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Will Jawando, and District 2 Councilmember Craig Rice introduced a resolution to establish the Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission. This commission will support community efforts to work with the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative to recognize the victims of lynchings in Montgomery County and help the County understand and take steps to address its own history of racial injustice.
James Stowe, director of the Office of Human Rights, gave remarks during the introduction of the resolution. OHR will take a leading role in facilitating the Commission’s activities.
Councilmember Riemer said, “After the Civil War, Americans tragically embraced a reconciliation that once again left African Americans behind. Slavery led to Jim Crow and segregation and to poverty and mass incarceration. This inequitable system was maintained through acts of racial terrorism such as lynching. While Montgomery County today is an inclusive and progressive community, the County was nevertheless an actor in the historic injustices that created circumstances we are still grappling with now. We need to better understand that history, own up to it, and seek to overcome the past with new initiatives to promote justice and equality.”
Councilmember Jawando said, “We cannot mask our history if we are to ever end systemic racism, social injustice and domestic terrorism delivered upon young black men in America even today. Let’s forever remember the names of George Peck, John Diggs and Sidney Randolph, and acknowledge our past of persecuting and murdering African Americans. This resolution is a healing balm on a horrible wound. We seek to inspire the residents of Montgomery County to confront racism and end hatred in our communities by promoting human dignity and social justice.”
Councilmember Rice said, “Bringing to light the atrocities that happened to George Peck, John Diggs, Sidney Randolph and acknowledging their lynchings is long overdue. These victims were murdered and they were denied due process, and this affects our community as a whole. It’s important to spotlight the horrors of our past and to facilitate better racial dialogue in the future.”
At least three documented lynchings occurred in the County, two in 1880 and one in 1896. EJI, a foundation located in Alabama, has documented more than 4,000 lynchings in more than 800 counties nationwide, mostly between the years 1880 and 1940. To recognize lynching victims, EJI created The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The museum features a walkway with 800 worn steel columns or pillars hanging from the roof and laying on the floor, engraved with the names of lynching victims.
“The goal of the Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission,” said Councilmember Riemer, “is to provide a process for the County Government as well as Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College, the Arts and Humanities Council and other agencies to support the community dialogue necessary for Montgomery County to claim its memorial.”
Stowe said, “It is our hope that this resolution will enable us to put together a team to not only tell the story of these lynchings, but also to facilitate a broader knowledge of the lessons of our history and bring about reconciliation. We hope that persons of goodwill from all across this community will come together and engage in honest conversations about this violent history that took place in Montgomery County.”
The Commission would be comprised of community leaders, including at least ten public members who would be nominated by the County Executive in consultation with the Office of Human Rights and confirmed by the Council.
All Councilmembers cosponsored the resolution.
Photos and video courtesy Montgomery County Council.