Decades after their hangings, 19 lynching victims will soon be honored with memorials throughout Alachua County.
County commissioners hope to move forward with a plan after unanimously agreeing to honor the victims, who had been killed in the county as far back as 1891. The most notorious of them was the 1916 killing of eight in Newberry.
At least one of the victims was white, although the victims of lynchings were typically black.
The goal is to place memorials close to an estimated location of where lynchings have occurred, said Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson, a county commissioner.
“We can’t allow our history to escape us,” Hutchinson said.
Although an official plan is still being created, one idea is to place fixed markers with website links that lead to a story of the person’s life, Hutchinson said.
The project’s estimated cost is between $20,000 and $30,000, Hutchinson said. He hopes the money will come from private sources.
The Alachua County Historical Commission will meet March 13 to discuss plans about the memorial, said Kathleen Pagan, a liaison for the historical commission. It will research the names of those who were killed before the project can be officially recommended, Pagan said.
Patricia Hilliard-Nunn, an adjunct professor with the UF African American Studies program, has done extensive research on the 1916 Newberry lynching.
Florida has the highest number of recorded lynchings, per capita, throughout the history of the U.S., Hilliard-Nunn said.
“When we establish memorials, it is critical to address their history and their personal story as well,” Hilliard-Nunn said. “It helps to educate people about what happened.”
While memorializing these events is important, it’s also necessary to commemorate the African-American culture that helped to build Alachua County, Hilliard-Nunn said.
“I think it’s important that we do something that gives a holistic perspective on the lives of African-Americans,” she said. “If you don’t remember the past, you’re doomed to repeat it.”