Google Launches ‘Lynching In America’ Project Exploring Country’s Violent Racial History

By Zeba Blay,

GOOGLE/EJI. “Confronting the legacy of racial terror.”

The history of lynching and racial terror in America is the focus of an ambitious new project launched Tuesday by Google, in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative.

Google has helped create a new interactive site titled “Lynching in America,” which is based on an 80-page publication by the EJI. Its research has been adapted into a powerful visual narrative about the horror and brutality that generations of black Americans have faced.

The site consists of audio stories from the descendants of lynching victims, and a documentary short called “Uprooted,” which chronicles the impact of lynching on black families. The project also includes an interactive map that details locations of racial terror lynchings, complete with profiles of the victims and the stories behind their deaths….

“Google has been able to take what we know about lynching, and what we have heard from the families, and what we have seen in the spaces and the communities where these acts of terror took place, and make that knowledge accessible to a lot more people,” said Bryan Stevenson, founder of EJI, in a press release. “To create a platform for hearing and understanding and seeing this world that we’ve lived through.”

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Georgia Police Chief, Other White Leaders Apologize for 1940 Lynching

Griot: Karen Branan

Ernest Ward, president of the Troup County NAACP, (left) and LaGrange Police Chief Louis Dekmar have organized an event of acknowledgement in the 1940’s kidnapping and murder of Austin Callaway, 18. (Photo By: Melanie Ruberti | LaGrange Daily News)

On January 26, 2017 the police chief of Lagrange, Georgia, along with the city’s mayor, a judge, and a college president, representing the white business community, issued an apology for the 1940 lynching of teenaged Austin Callaway. The apology was issued to NAACP Pres. Ernest Ward and to members of Callaway’s family. Special mention was made of the church’s minister Rev. W.L. Strickland, who took his own life in his hands when he not only spoke out to a silent city against the lynching but wrote Thurgood Marshall, then legal counsel for the national NAACP for help, and started the Lagrange NAACP chapter.

On March 18, 2017, a local citizens organization, Troup Together, assisted by the Equal Justice Initiative of Montgomery, AL, will place a memorial marker to Callaway and other African Americans lynched in that county at Vernon Memorial.

A Sept. 9, 1940, article in The New York Times about the lynching of Austin Callaway. The fatal cruelties inflicted upon him are to be acknowledged Thursday evening. (The New York Times)

Before the Lagrange apology only one public official, the mayor of Waco, Texas, has taken responsibility for a lynching in his jurisdiction. Never has a police chief done so. In Lagrange, Chief Lou Dekmar said, “Most lynchings would not have happened if the police had done their jobs.”  Officials who spoke emphasized their determination to work for improved race relations on all levels. The service was covered by the New York Times, CBS, NBC, CNN, and NPR.

Karen Branan is the author of The Family Tree: A Lynching in Georgia, A Legacy of Secrets, and My Search for the Truth. She has been involved with the Lagrange effort for over a year. The lynchings detailed in her book occurred just 20 miles from that of Austin Callaway.

At ABHM’s Founder’s Day for Racial Repair and Reconciliation 2017, Karen will present about how her discoveries about her family’s complicity in a lynching unleashed her anti-racism activism.