Lynching in Our Own Backyard

By Kirsten Kinsley

Driving to work one morning I shared with my son that I was writing a blog post about the history of lynching in America. We discussed white guilt, limitations of school history books to illuminate the reality of racism in this country, and the fear of exposing our ignorance to the effects of racial violence and terror on our black brothers and sisters in this nation’s history.

Twice now in the past year, the horror of the history of lynchings in the United States has been brought to my attention and consciousness. First, during a 60 Minutes episode where Oprah Winfrey visits the the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the new memorial in Alabama dedicated to the thousands of African-Americans lynched in the United States in the aftermath of the Civil War (Winfrey, 2018). I haven’t been to visit it, but the design of the memorial includes 800, six foot blocks hung from an outdoor structure with names of individuals killed in over 12 states, representing lynchings that occurred in 805 counties. The rows of blocks represent figures of cruelty and hatred, as they literally hang from the ceiling. Even though I was only seeing this on television, I was struck by the compelling images.

The second time this blight on our country’s history was brought to my mind was on a ride to work. I think it was an NPR story on the lynchings that occured in our own community, right down the street from where we work — on Gaines between Gadsden and Meridian streets at a now majestic oak that belies the “past injustice” of hangings that occurred there (Ensley, 2012).

Beyond momentary remembrance and horror, what can I do? It wasn’t until, during a meeting of the FSU Library’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, that I was given the opportunity to explore this again as it is lurking in the back of my mind. What do I do after the solemn pause? Consciously acknowledging this happened and exposing the horror that all of us humans are capable of in a mob mentality is not enough. To realize that this happened in our own backyard: Mike Morris (1897), Pierce Taylor (1909), Ernest Ponder and Richard Hawkins (1937), were lynched here in Leon County (Hassanein, 2018). To realize that the crowds that surrounded and supported the acts of vigilante injustice, were everyday people, like you and me, accusing a fellow human who wasn’t given a fair trial.  It happened here and none of those crimes were ever brought to justice. (It still happens today, same story, but with a different means of injustice. Remember Brandon McClelland in Paris, Texas?) Where do we go from here?

The movement toward racial equality in the U.S. is not a road of steady progress. Rather, it is pockmarked with resistance to change, engrained institutional racism, and community-sponsored terror. The ‘spectacular secret’ of lynching in America grabs national attention, yet remains hidden from public spotlight, traditional history, and contemporary discourse (Goldsby 2006 as cited in Fitchett et al., 2012). Exposing the “secret” has the potential to challenge individuals’ understanding of race in the United States. (248)

Exposing the truth once again in my own world, I hope to begin to understand how hatred and injustice in small ways can grow into the collective terrors of an entire race. Our current culture runs the risk of leaving future generations with unexamined hearts and minds that don’t remember.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

MAYA ANGELOU, ON THE PULSE OF MORNING (as cited in Equal Justice Initiative, 2017)

During that aforementioned conversation with my son on a morning car ride, he ended the chat by quoting from Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 (1967, p.104),

“Mistakes can be profited by Man [People], when I was young I showed my ignorance in people’s faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been hoed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.”

I am willing to admit that I am ignorant, but I am ready to listen and to learn? “Avoiding honest conversation about this history has undermined our ability to build a nation where racial justice can be achieved” (Equal Justice Initiative, 2017, para. 3). How and where do we start the honest conversation?


Angelou, M. (1993). On the pulse of morning. Retrieved February 17, 2019, from

Bradbury, R. (1967). Fahrenheit 451. New York : Simon and Schuster.

Equal Justice Initiative (2017). Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror. Retrieved February 1, 2019, from

Ensley, G. (2018, June 7). Tallahassee hanging tree symbolizes past injustice Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved January 31, 2019, from

Fitchett, P. G., Merriweather, L., & Coffey, H. (2015). “It’s not a pretty picture”: How pre-service history teachers make meaning of America’s racialized past through lynching imagery. History Teacher, 48(2), 245–269.

Goldsby, J. D. (2006). A spectacular secret  : lynching in American life and literature. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Hassanein, N. (2018, June 7). “Painful history”: Remembering Leon County’s lynching victims: A recently open memorial in Montgomery captures a dark chapter of Tallahassee history. Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved January 31, 2019, from

Hassanein, N.(2018, June 7). St. John’s Episcopal Church plans remembrance project for Leon lynching victims. Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved January 31, 2019, from

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. (n.d.). Retrieved February 1, 2019, from

Winfrey, O. (2018, April 27). Inside the memorial to victims of lynching. CBS News: 60 Minutes. Retrieved February 1, 2019, from

Love Data Week

Join FSU Libraries for workshops and activities to raise awareness and share practice tips, resources, and stories to encourage good data practices. Participate in Love Data Week and be entered to win exciting prizes, including FSU Libraries swag and gift cards! #LoveData19

See the event schedule below.

This year’s themes are:

Data in Everyday Life

Data Justice

Open Data

Adopt a Dataset!

As part of Love Data Week, we’re encouraging you to adopt a dataset!

Bring your dataset to life by learning about it and introducing it to anyone who hasn’t met it before. Use the Dataset Adoption Form to find a Dataset to research and adopt and you’ll receive a Data Adoption Certificate. Share the name and something interesting about your Dataset to this thread using #LoveData19 and #ICPSR for your chance to be entered to win prizes!

Green Office Certification at FSU Libraries

For the last two years, FSU Libraries has had a team of faculty and staff who are working towards making the libraries greener through various initiatives. One way we have started changing our workplace culture is by participating in the Green Office Certification Program. 

FSU’s Office of Sustainability runs this program to help faculty and staff review their workplace’s current practices and help them take steps towards being more sustainable. 

We are proud to say that eight of our offices are Green Office Certified: 

  • The Learning Commons Office 
  • The Social Science, Arts, & Humanities Office 
  • The Special Collections  & Archives Main Office 
  • The Dirac Science Library Office 
  • Resource Management and Discovery Services Building
  • Administration Offices
  • Security Office 
  • Technology & Digital Scholarship Office 

For more information on the Green Office Certification Program, go to:

Seeing Something Good

by Dave Rodriguez

It usually takes discoveries of blockbuster proportions for stories related to film preservation and restoration to have any traction in the manic, mainstream news cycle. Generally, only things like the excavation of original materials from Fritz Lang’s sci-fi epic Metropolis (1927) by Argentine archivists, or the restoration of the thought-to-be-lost Orson Welles project Too Much Johnson (1938), carry the high-profile cachet to excite audiences outside academic and cinephilic circles. But every so often, a small, precious film comes along that conveys something much more beautiful and enriching than the grand vision of a canonized auteur. Every so often we are offered not just something we’ve never seen before, but are confronted with a new way of seeing.

Such is the case with the recently restored Something Good — Negro Kiss, a 29-second film produced in 1898, a mere 3 years after the first public film exhibitions took place. Purchased as part of a bulk collection on eBay and delivered to archivist Dino Everett in a garbage bag, the 50-foot nitrate film strip was discovered almost entirely by chance, but ultimately saved through diligent archival work by Everett, film historian Allyson Field, and the collective efforts of the Orphan Film Symposium. The film, a “re-make” of Thomas Edison’s infamously scandalous The Kiss (1896), depicts something remarkable on celluloid in the era of Blackface minstrel shows and calcified racist tropes: an African American couple kissing, embracing, dancing–with a natural tenderness and intimacy miles away from how people of color were represented on the stage or screen at the time.

It’s difficult to not have an emotional reaction to the film. The moment captured feels effortless and loving, which is perhaps a testament to the two actors’ (Gertie Brown & Saint Suttle) talents. Even Oscar-winning director and FSU-alum Barry Jenkins was rendered speechless when a Twitter user set the work to music from his latest feature, If Beale Street Could Talk, another film with Black romance at its center. Research uncovered that Something Good was originally sold through the Sears catalog as a comedy, a fact highlighting its contemporary White audience’s “presumption that Black people on screen were inherently comedic,” Field explains. But watching today seems to imbue the film with another significance entirely. Despite original intentions, the brief vision of love and frivolity offered by Something Good defies its own context of production and gives the Black body on-screen something much more dire, something that we are in many ways still struggling for: its humanity.

In December 2018, the film was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, ensuring its preservation and access for many future generations of viewers (and kissers).

Read more of Allyson Field’s commentary and about the story of Something Good — Negro Kiss in Lila MacLellan’s fantastic article in Quartzy.

New PopLit for the New Year

Do you need a mental break from your studies? The Popular Literature Collection at FSU is specifically catered to bring what you want to read into your library. The Pop Lit Collection was started after a request from the Student Government. The Pop Lit committee carefully selects books from multiple genres that range across literary fiction, true crime, fantasy, biographies, and more. We just got our first order of 2019 in and are excited to add twelve titles to the shelves!

The Pop Lit Collection continues to grow. In 2018 we added over 200 new books to the Popular Literature Collection! We acquired stand-alone books, later installments of series, and some top reads of 2018. 

They are in different formats:

  • Graphic Novel
  • Hardcover
  • Paperback
  • Mass Market Paperback

Cover a range of genres:

  • Fantasy
  • Travel
  • Biography
  • Science Fiction
  • Mystery or Thriller
  • Horror
  • History
  • Politics
  • Literary Fiction
  • Graphic Novels
  • Romance
  • Graphic Novels
  • Romance
  • Adventure
  • Science
  • Self-Help
  • Business

If you are interested in reading some of our books, stop by the popular literature collection on the first floor of Strozier library right by the library side of Starbucks.