This evening, I’m taking the action I can to not just say no to racism, but hell no.
Tonight, a memorial will be set to mark where James T. Scott was killed in a lynching. An MU janitor, he was accused, but never found guilty, of assaulting a Columbia girl. He was never given a chance to prove his innocence.
The date was April 1923.
The event will take place at 5 p.m., starting with an unveiling, and a reception at 6 p.m. at 518 Hitt St., in the Leadership Auditorium on the second floor of Memorial Union on the campus of MU.
I’m white and I think about the fact that my grandfather risked his life unionizing in the 1920s. But he didn’t get killed. I wonder how I would feel about my grandfather if he’d been killed by a mob for something he didn’t do.
It wouldn’t have been me killed, but it would have still affected me.
Then I think about how that murder affects all of us in Columbia even today, just as it did then.
Then I think about how it must have affected another black man, J.W. “Blind” Boone. His home has recently been dedicated as a historical home and community center.
That home, at 10 N. Fourth St. is seven blocks — one-half mile — from the place where the last lynching in Columbia took place. A 10-minute walk. What must it have felt like to be a black man, a famous black man who toured the country, a black man who was wealthy and accomplished, as was Boone, to live a 10-minute walk from that murder?
I have no idea. And if you are white, you probably don’t either. But I think Scott could have been my great-grandfather, and how would I see the world today if that had happened to my relative?
Today, you can see Boone’s house, and remark on his amazing life and talents. And sometimes, like recently, you can see the results of what led to the death of James T. Scott.
So tonight, I’ll be at the event so people can see that we’re just saying no to racism, we’re saying hell no.