(Equal Justice Initiative) The Orleans Legacy Project partnered with EJI to hold a soil collection community ceremony and install a historical marker last month in remembrance of the July 1900 Mass Lynching in New Orleans, in which countless Black residents were terrorized, maimed, and killed by white mobs over several days. At least seven Black people are documented to have been killed in the mass lynching, including Mrs. Hannah Mabry.
The virtual ceremony celebrated the unveiling of the historical marker at Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in the Central City district of downtown New Orleans and documented the collection of soil, as descendants of Mrs. Hannah Mabry poured soil into jars to memorialize their loved one.
The Kumbuka African Drum and Dance Collective offered song and dance, and in true New Orleans fashion, a virtual second line with Wynton Marsalis and Friends closed out the ceremony. The coalition initially planned to hold a soil collection community ceremony in March, but the ceremony had to be canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speakers at the virtual ceremony included State Rep. Royce Duplessis, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell, the Rev. Dr. Torin Sanders of Sixth Baptist Church, co-founder of the Ashé Cultural Arts Center Carol Bebelle, and Councilmember Jay Banks, who presented a Proclamation from the City Council that apologizes for the Mass Lynching of 1900.
Mr. Duplessis acknowledged that, as a member of the Louisiana legislature, he knows that the legacy of America’s history of racial terror and injustice “in many ways still plays out in policies that continue to be adopted and a culture that is perpetuated not only in our criminal legal system but through the injustices that we see in our education system, environmental justice policies, and healthcare system.”
In the past, few public memorials have addressed the nation’s history of lynching, and most victims have never been publicly acknowledged. “It could happen again today,” Queta Beasley Harris, great great great great granddaughter of Mrs. Hannah Mabry, said. “It does happen today. It’s the same thing over and over.”
Referring to the importance of the ceremony and soil collection for Mrs. Hannah Mabry, 11-year-old History Ecclesiastes said, “We’re helping out a soul.”
July 1900 Mass Lynching in New Orleans
From July 24 to 27, 1900, white mobs unleashed a campaign of racial terror throughout the city of New Orleans that resulted in the lynching of at least seven Black people.
On July 23, the violence began after police tried to arrest Robert Charles, a 35-year old Black man who was seated peacefully on a doorstep. Mr. Charles objected to the arrest, struggled, and ultimately fled after multiple exchanges of gunfire that left two officers dead.
Over the next several days, the entire Black community was targeted by thousands of armed white people who shot, beat, and killed Black people across the city. Police failed to intervene for two full days while mobs abducted, maimed, and killed Black people.
Mrs. Hanna Mabry, an elderly Black woman, was shot and killed by a mob of at least 20 white men on the night of July 26. In the weeks following her death, Mrs. Mabry’s son and daughter-in-law, Harry and Nancy Mabry, identified two white men in court as the mob leaders responsible for her death. The case against the two white men collapsed when death threats forced Mr. Mabry to recant his testimony. He was convicted of perjury and sentenced to eight months in the Louisiana State Penitentiary.
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