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Chattanooga group wants to build memorial for black man who was lynched

Ed Johnson was lynched from the Walnut Street bridge in 1906.

UPDATE:

On Tuesday, September 12th, the Ed Johnson Project announced that several semi-finalists have been selected. Read their full release below.

Depend on us to keep you posted.

PREVIOUSLY:

While people all over the country are fighting to have Confederate statues taken down, people in Chattanooga want another kind of statue built.

Ed Johnson was lynched from the Walnut Street bridge in 1906.

Wednesday morning, a group asked the Hamilton County commission for help.

The bridge is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Chattanooga.

Thousands cross it every year, but many don't know the dark history it holds.

"I'm a bit surprised, actually. I mean, I know there's been a lot of civil war history in the area but I hadn't heard about a lynching on the bridge," Jaclyn Franzin said.

The Ed Johnson project was formed last year. It's a movement to place a memorial on the South end of the bridge, near downtown.

Donivan Brown says he feels an important piece of Chattanooga's history is missing.

"A young man snuffed out not able to see his 30th birthday," Brown said.

Wednesday, we went with Brown and Eleanor Cooper to Johnson's grave site in a hidden cemetery in Chattanooga.

"God bless you all. I'm an innocent man. Those were his last words," Cooper read from his grave.

"Every time I'm here I am always moved," Brown said.

They're both members of the Ed Johnson project.

Johnson was accused of raping a woman. Several eyewitnesses say he wasn't there at the time.

He was found guilty, but his family appealed.

"The Supreme Court issued a stay of execution and it was during that stay that his lynching took place. The Supreme Court held the mob and the sheriff accountable for contempt of court and they were tried and were found guilty," Cooper said.

Cooper spoke before the county commission on Wednesday.

She asked them to match the money the city has given them to build a memorial at the south end of the Walnut Street bridge.

Donivan Brown says now, more than ever, he'd like to see a memorial for a black man who made a difference.

"We live in a society which memorializes many individuals, some friends some foe, for me I am moved. I think this is one of the things which is lacking in our country," Brown said.

We asked project members how they feel about confederate statues.

They said they're not necessarily for taking them down.

They think, like Ed Johnson's story, it's a part of history and deserves a space in our town, too.

The Ed Johnson project asked county commissioners for $100,000.

We asked commissioners if they plan to give money to the project, Chester Bankston says he's not sure yet.

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