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St Johns Lynching

I never thought someone could be lynched twice, but that is what happened to Isaac Barrett. First in 1897 and again in 2018, 121 years after his death. The second lynching was the snatching of a marker meant to commemorate a time in our past that was dark and lawless practices of death by a mob was used to teach a lesson and strike fear in the African American community. We worked with the Equal Justice initiative to erect a marker in Orangedale, Florida, not because we were trying to make a statement about Mr Barrett’s guilt or innocence, but because his sentence and execution came without due process.

This does not mean our hearts don’t ache for what happened to the Hewson family and the terror they experienced at the hands of their attacker. Never the less, Mr. Barrett was not allowed his day in court as many Black men, women and children in his day.

Murder is wrong, but so is lynching. It is meant to invoke fear and intimidation. It was then as it is now.

The person or persons who vandalized and stole his marker before its dedication meant to invoke fear and intimidation. What they did was invoke determination and steadfastness to keep working to bring awareness of our past while using that history to teach us not to repeat it.

I think his community can only benefit by using incidents like this to come together and have conversations about how the deeds of our ancestors will continue to affect the present and future generations on how we deal with issues of race and hatred and other issues that divide us. Isaac Barrett was hanged from a tree by the river near where his marker was stolen. The dedication is but a part of the reconciliation we hope were can generate in this community. The marker can be replaced, so can the hatred if we allow ourselves to hear each other as neighbors and fellow human beings.

Regina Gayle Phillips
Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center

From Folio Weekly: The story of Isaac Barrett’s lynching

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