By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
On December 13, a marker honoring Bunk Richardson was dedicated. The marker is to be placed at the end of North 1st Street in Gadsden, by the railroad where Richardson was lynched.
The marker was a joint project between the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), the City of Gadsden and Gadsden Reads, which featured EJI founder Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy.
The marker is engraved with the tale of what happened to Richardson on one side and the history of lynching in America on the other.
In 1905, three men were accused of raping and murdering a white woman. Richardson was not involved, but knew one of the suspects, so he was arrested, but never charged. Two suspects were tried, convicted and executed, but the third’s sentence was commuted to life in prison because the governor doubted his guilt. The 1906 change in sentencing outraged white Gadsden residents. A mob formed, that seized Richardson from the jail, dragged him down the street and hung him from the train testle over the Coosa River. Richardson’s family fled town. No one was charged for the lynching.
Vanessa Croft, welcomed everyone to the dedication. Reverend Harold Kimble led the opening prayer.
Robery Avery recognized Richardson’s decendents in the crowd. He said that this marker dedication was “111 years past due.” He went on to recognize members of the civil rights organization the Bi-Racial Transition Committee.
Bryan Stevenson, EJI founder and author of Just Mercy, spoke to the crowd.
“I’m proud of what is happening in Gadsden tonight,” said Stevenson. “This is not easy. We’ve been burdened by this history of racial inequality, we’ve been burdened by this legacy. And the only way we can get free is if we come together and begin to deal with the hard things.”
The EJI Racial Justice Essay Contest winners were announced and awarded. First place went to Gadsden City High School’s Tobi Akisanya, 9th grade, and Asia Polk, 12th grade. The first place winners read the essays they wrote at the dedication. Junior JacQuez King won second place, and Episcopal Day School junior Mary Margaret McCartney won third place. In total, the winners received $5000 in scholarships for college.
Chari Bostick introduced two Spoken Word performers, Elizabeth Wynn-Croft and Anthony Treadwell. The J. M. Woods Youth Choir also performed. Reverend Michael Goldsmith prayed over the marker. Closing remarks were given by Gadsden City Councilman Deverick Williams.