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Marker Commemorating Last Recorded Lynching In Arkansas Unveiled

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Sarah Kellogg - KUAR News
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The public lynching of John Carter, a Black man, by a white mob in 1927 was remembered during a memorial ceremony on Sunday at the Haven of Rest Cemetery.

This is the first in a series of lynching commemorations that the Pulaski County Community Remembrance Project plans to do, with the next one set to happen in Argenta in late October memorializing Homer G. Blackman.

In separate interviews before the remembrance, KUAR spoke with Clarice & Kwami Abdul-Bey, co-conveners of the Arkansas Peace and Justice Memorial Movement about the upcoming commemoration and the importance of remembering this history. Below is a transcript of the aired conversation.

Clarice Abdul-Bey: "Our purpose here is to recognize, memorialize, honor the lives of victims of racial terror, lynching in the state of Arkansas—Arkansas being third, or fourth highest in the country with 493 lynchings.

Since 2018, we have sought out historians from all over Arkansas, academics from all over Arkansas, other organizations who are a part of the Pulaski County Community Remembrance Project and that’s compiled of over a dozen or so organizations who have taken stake in and said that “we want to be a part of commemorating, honoring lives of victims of racial terror lynchings in the state of Arkansas."

KUAR: I would love to talk about the importance of memorializing or remembering an event like this.

Clarice:  "For the most part, I’ve always said and I know that many scholars have said and I just paraphrase, that basically the past is present. And remembering those whose lives have been taken, they were never really valued. It not only is a life taken, but it is a community that suffers from that trauma.

Being able to study trauma—study and learn about how it affects not just that individual but the trauma is what happens after. So you leave not only a person whose life was taken, but the community is left reeling because we know that that person represents a certain population and a community.

I don’t think that we can truly move forward in the present if we don’t remember. If we don’t remember, if we don’t study the past, if we don’t reconcile the past, and also do some reparative justice because of what happened. Because I believe that everything that’s happened has a direct effect on what happens with us in the present if there’s not some reparative justice happening."

KUAR: What do you want people who come to this memorial to take away from it? What lessons do you want them to have at the end of this?

Clarice: "The importance of humanization. Understanding that this person’s life—John Carter’s life—was important. He was someone’s son. He was 22 years old so there’s no reported children, but he was somebody’s child and his life was just as important as anyone’s life. As equally as important as our own lives.

The way he was treated and the way he was killed—murdered—and the way that our community, whether it’s our state government or city government, did not handle those lynchings with any type of empathy. There was nothing. It was actually us. There was a lot of state sanctioned violence. The police and the deputies were literally directing traffic. They weren’t even trying to stop the mobs. They were participating in this injustice.

So I want them to leave understanding the humanity of the people whose lives were taken."

KUAR: There’s this, right now, a national pushback to teach history like this. What do we as a country lose if we don’t teach events like this?

Kwami Abdul-Bey: "In my view, this move to sanitize history where we’re only telling the story that we’ve been telling for the last 100 years and we’re not allowing the truth to come out. I think that it is a grand fear from a segment of the community for their white sons and white daughters to actually hear what their fathers and grandfathers and mothers and grandmothers have done to another segment of the community. And done with total disregard for humanity. And they’ve done it with a total lack of accountability.

All that is being asked right now is as the research is being done and as the truth is being uncovered, that we include all stories into our history so that we can get a fuller, more robust understanding of what got us to where we are right now. There is a direct line from what happened to John Carter to what happened to George Floyd. It’s a direct, unbroken line. Until we realize that we cannot break the cycle.

So, the importance of history is it will help us break the cycle. It will help us to heal because not only has the Black community been traumatized, the entire nation has been traumatized and we are all suffering from this unacknowledged trauma and we all need healing."

KUAR: Is there anything else that you would like to add that I have not asked you about?

Kwami: "Arkansas has a documented 493 racial terror lynchings that have occured within the last 150 years. It is the goal of the Arkansas Peace and Justice Memorial Movement to erect a historic marker at the site of each and every one of those 493 racial terror lynchings. This is the beginning of a process and we want everyone to join in. There is a lot of talking that we need to do amongst each other and with each other and to each other and there’s a lot of healing that we all need to do together."