• Hundreds gather to remember Memphis lynching

    By: Zach Crenshaw


    Hundreds gathered in East Memphis Sunday, at the site where an African American man was lynched a century ago.

    A dedication was held for two historical markers memorializing Ell Persons.

    Persons was an African American who was burned alive by a lynch mob after a white girl was murdered near his home.


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    "The fact that he was technically burned alive. I can't imagine what that suffering was like," said Michele Whitney, the Great-Niece of Ell Persons.

    There is still pain lingering from that day.

    Michele Whitney was back at the spot where her ancestor was killed to honor him and make sure he's never forgotten.

    "100 years ago part of the Memphis community gathered here to kill someone, celebrate evil, further racism, and encourage hate," said Mayor Jim Strickland.

    Persons was murdered because the white community wanted someone to pay for the brutal murder of a 16-year old student, Antoinette Rappel.

    She was found raped and murdered not far from where Persons worked as a woodcutter.

    Persons was arrested twice and released twice. A third time was taken into custody and beaten into a confession. No trial was even held for either murder.

    "I think that's the biggest tragedy of this entire situation is that the young lady that was murdered. They may have thought at the time that they were receiving justice, but they really did not," said Whitney.

    Relatives from Antoinette's side were also in attendance, symbolic of how far the country has come in 100 years.

    "[It's about] not burying the past and the history but learning from it and having it be an open part of discussion and dialogue," said Laura Wilfong-Miller, who is related to Antoinette Rappel.

    The conversation was kicked off Sunday and the families from both sides hope the new historical markers off Summer are a reminder that we can never forget our past and continue to learn from it.

    Today's dedication and historial markers were only made possible because of the Lynching Site Project, Overton High School, and Central High School.

    As a result of Ell Persons' death, the Memphis NAACP was formed.


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    Hundreds gather to remember Memphis lynching