Ohio University worked in conjunction with the Equal Justice Initiative, or EJI, the city of Athens and the EJI’s Community Remembrance Project to put up a dedication to Christopher Davis, who was lynched in 1881, on Mulberry Street.
Davis was a 24-year-old Albany resident when he was killed.
Ohio University President Duane M. Nellis spoke about the need for issues relating to what happened to Davis to be continually addressed. Nellis also addressed the university’s support of students of all backgrounds as well as the vow to provide diversity and inclusion.
The program then moved on to show a small skit written by Elijah Bowman. This skit consisted of an actor playing Davis reciting a reflection on what happened to him.
Davis was falsely accused of raping and assaulting his neighbor, Lucinda Luckey, and was then arrested. Following his arrest, Davis was moved to a jail in Chillicothe, due to rumors of a mob forming against him. However, despite the move, Davis was attacked in the jail and beaten close to death, after which the mob dragged him to where he would finally be coerced into confessing and consequently lynched.
Gigi Secuban, OU’s vice president of diversity and inclusion, described what happened to Davis and highlighted OU’s history of dedication to “Black excellence” and the university's assertion that “Black lives do matter.”
“To know where we are going, we have to continuously remember our past, learn from it, honor it and move forward in our quest to create an anti-racist campus and community,” Secuban said.
Following Secuban was Reverend Jack Sullivan Jr., executive director of The Ohio Council of Churches.
Sullivan talked about the discomfort of his annual eye exams, which he then related to the uncomfortable but necessary nature of examining and confronting issues of racism and white supremacy in the country's past. He described 1881 as being what he called “a social and political vortex for people of color.”
“This marker is necessary because truth is necessary. It is required because justice is required. It must denote honor because a man of honor was murdered here,” Sullivan said. “It must reflect historical honesty to help us dislodge generations of racist lies and distortions that haunt us even now.”
Sullivan continued to draw parallels between systematic racism in the past with issues occurring today and called for America to acknowledge racism as a present public health crisis and to move forward with efforts to remedy that crisis.
Following Sullivan’s speech, Sharell Arocho-Wise sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which was followed by EJI Justice Fellow Michaela Clarke and EJI Project Manager Gabrielle Daniels speaking.
Daniels and Clarke discussed the work they and the EJI had done with Athens to perpetuate the Community Remembrance Project and the EJI Racial Justice Essay Contest.
This contest was presented to high school students as an opportunity to win scholarship money and to articulate their thoughts and research on the matter of racial injustice.
Following the talk by Daniels and Clarke, Julia Weber, an Athens High School student, the first-place winner of the essay contest, gave a short speech.
Weber acknowledged her privilege and described what she had learned in her research for her essay as well as what she hopes to be able to contribute to the anti-racism movement.
To finish the event, there was a small slideshow of photos, including those of Davis, the bridge and a landscape of the area.