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Sacred Soil Recalls Local Lynching Victims

Tom Flanigan

Leon County’s lynching victims were remembered the morning of Saturday, February 28 during a solemn ceremony hosted by the Tallahassee Remembrance Project. Soil taken from a site near the former Leon County Jail will now be part of a national commemoration.

Claire Encinosa, an 8th grader at Cornerstone Learning Community, is already a well-versed student of history.

“Pierce Taylor was a young African-American man,” she intoned during the ceremony. “He was taken from the jail site next to us by a mob of about 12 men January 24, 1897.”

Encinosa went on to recount the last moments of three other Leon County lynching victims: Mike Morris, Ernest Ponder and Richard Hawkins. These are the only four whose fate was officially documented, but historians believe there certainly were others who met that end in Leon County. Encinosa was among more than 100 people at Saturday’s ceremony. The soil collected from the site will go to the Equal Justice Initiative’s exhibit in Montgomery, AL. Kiara Boone is with the Initiative.

“We think it’s important and critical and mandatory that we talk about the history of slavery, of racial terror, lynching and violence and talk about segregation, because that foundation is why we have the disparities in mass incarceration and health care, along with education and wealth disparities,” she said.

The commemoration continued Saturday with a panel discussion on the FAMU campus.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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