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Ceremony memorializes Hamilton County lynching victims

Students from Chattanooga Christian School filled jars with soil. Each jar bore the name of one of the four men lynched in Hamilton County. The jars will go on display at a museum in Montgomery. (Image: WTVC){ }

Sunday, dozens gathered to remember four men who were lynched in Hamilton County.

The Ed Johnson Project and the Equal Justice Initiative organized a ceremony at the Hamilton County Jail and a march to the Walnut Street Bridge.

The bridge is where two men - Ed Johnson and Alfred Blount - were lynched. The ceremony also honored Charles Williams who was lynched at the Hamilton County Jail and Charles Brown who was lynched at a bridge in Soddy Daisy.

Students from Chattanooga Christian School filled jars with soil from those lynching sites. The jars will go on display in Montgomery as part of the Equal Justice Initiative's Remembrance Project, a museum that will recognize racial injustice. The group will also build a memorial for lynching victims in spring of 2018.

"Talking about lynchings is something that's difficult for many of us," Evan Milligan, a Fellow with the Equal Justice Initiative. "These aren't stories that have happy endings. But we think that by confronting this painful history, we can find lessons that we can apply to our communities today and tomorrow by teaching the types of things we don't want to repeat."

The Equal Justice Initiative estimates at least 4,000 people were lynched in the south after the Civil War.

As dozens marched through Chattanooga Sunday, organizers say the community should know both the good and the bad about Chattanooga's history.

"I think this event is a great example of how our city can be an example to the rest of the country to talk about ways we can come together for reconciliation," said LaFrederick Thirkil, Ed Johnson Memorial Committee Co-Chair. "And to talk about ways that we can improve race relations through our efforts to memorialize these individuals."

The Ed Johnson Project is working on building a permanent memorial at the entrance of the Walnut Street Bridge. The group recently selected three semi-finalists to submit designs.

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