Jars of soil at new exhibit to tell story of lynchings in Missouri

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A new exhibit being built inside the Black Archives of Mid-America here in Kansas City will house soil from the grounds of 60 different places around Missouri where lynchings took place following the Civil War and into the Civil Rights movement.

It's a simple jar with a white screw on cap containing about two quarts of soil from Union, Missouri. But there is a story inside the jar that needs to be told.

"Erastus Brown was on the way to the pharmacy to get medicine for his sick daughter,” Dr. Carmaletta Williams with Black Archives of Mid-America said. “Along the way something happened.

Some newspaper accounts say he robbed a white woman to pay for his daughter’s medication. He was never convicted.

“People broke into the jail, drug him out and murdered him,” Williams said. “His daughter died because she didn’t get that medicine."

This is one of 60 accounts of lynchings in Missouri alone between 1877 and 1965. Over the next few weeks, jars of soil will make their way here as part of “The Story’s in the soil" exhibit that is planned.

Jars will line the walls with accounts of what happened to each victim. Not so many years ago, along landscapes and boarders of Missouri.

“People would have their children on their shoulders so they could watch the lynchings. They were called grotesque carnivals,” Williams said. “It doesn’t take long to kill someone by hanging so they would have games.  And if you won the games your prize was you got to cut something off the body of the lynched person.”

A painting done by a student at the Kansas City Art Institute will show the scene as a hologram of Erastus Brown will tell the story.

It’s all part of a history lesson intended to acknowledge the past in order to bring racial healing for divides that still exist in our culture.

“This is a community remembrance project,” Williams said. “The whole community knows that in order to heal we have to address these things and move forward, but you have to address them first."

The exhibit will cost about $36,000. Ten thousand dollars of that has already been donated by KC Athenaeum and the museum is hoping to have the exhibit open by the first part of April.

If you are interested in donating to the exhibit, go click here and hit the donate button. Indicate that your donations are intended specially for the new exhibit.

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