Charlottesville Mayor Leads Pilgrimage to Montgomery Lynching Memorial

Charlottesville, VA – 100 Charlottesville community leaders and resident delegates will culminate a six-day Civil Rights Pilgrimage with a soil delivery ceremony for 1898 Charlottesville lynching victim John Henry James at the new Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) Legacy Museum, 122 Commerce Street, Montgomery, AL, at 2:30 pm on Thursday July 12th.

The delegates have been visiting history museums and pivotal Civil Rights Movement sites on their journey to Montgomery, studying the 400 years of Southern racial violence and terror against Black people that provide a backdrop for James’ 1898 lynching; the white supremacist rallies, the attacks against anti-racist protestors, Heather Heyer’s death in Charlottesville in 2017, and the uncountable similar tragedies between.

“Charlottesville is mobilizing to make change by literally getting on the bus to learn how our own history fits with Southern and US histories of anti-Black terror and Black resistance,” said Don Gathers, Chair of the 2016 Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces.

“This trip is part of an effort to educate students, teachers, and all community members about the legacy of anti-Black racial terror and Black resistance in Charlottesville specifically and across the South more broadly,” explained Professor Jalane Schmidt of the University of Virginia.

“Nelson Johnson reminded our delegation in Greensboro, ‘We must speak to the soul of the other…. Seek truth, seek justice, and seek not to become the thing which we oppose.’ It is time to tell the truth in America. It is the only way we can all live,” declared Rev. Brenda Brown-Grooms of New Beginnings Christian Community.

At the one-year anniversary of the summer 2017 Alt-Right violence, this trip is one of many ways in which the Charlottesville community is mobilizing to face the town’s difficult history of white supremacy.  The Pilgrimage commenced on July 8 — the one-year anniversary of a Ku Klux Klan rally in Charlottesville — and will arrive in Montgomery on July 12, the 120th anniversary of John Henry James’ 1898 lynching. Trip participants will report back to the broader Charlottesville community before the one-year anniversary of the deadly August 12, 2017 “Unite the Right” Rally.

“Charlottesville —and the nation— have to understand how the violent white supremacist rallies last summer fit into a legacy of racial terror,” said Dr. Andrea Douglas, Executive Director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, and organizer of the trip. “This is our challenge: Can we create a process that uncovers and disseminates racial truth?”

Note to Editors

The 100-Member Delegation Includes: Mayor Nikuyah Walker (Charlottesville’s recently-elected, first-ever African-American woman mayor); Susan Bro (mother of slain anti-racist activist Heather Heyer); members of the clergy; University of Virginia students, faculty and staff; local public high school students and teachers; former members of the city’s Blue Ribbon Commission which held hearings in 2016 about Charlottesville’s Confederate monuments; representatives of community organizations, including 2017 counter-protesters; and other residents.

Images from the Pilgrimage: A selection of photos will be made available after the event by Eze Amos Photography. Reporters are also encouraged to peruse images uploaded with the tag #cvillepilgrimage on social media.

Pilgrimage Itinerary:
Charlottesville, VA – July 7 (departure)
Appomattox, VA – July 8
Danville, VA – July 8
Greensboro, NC – July 9
Charlotte, NC – July 9
Atlanta, GA – July 10
Birmingham, AL – July 11 (9am 16th St. Baptist Church, 10am Birmingham Civil Rights Institute)
Montgomery, AL – July 12 (9:00 Southern Poverty Law Center Museum, 2:00 Equal Justice Institute)
Charlottesville, VA – July 13 (return)