Some of you may recall this blog posting of a few weeks ago in which I wrote about a new book, They Called Themselves the K.K.K.
Much of the book is devoted to the horrors of the Reconstruction period in the South and the terror the Ku Klux Klan visited upon former slaves.
But that terror continued well into the 20th Century, not just by the Klan but by other ad hoc people and groups who engaged in the practice of lynching black people.
Some of the witnesses to some of those lynchings still are alive, and they are telling their painful stories to a woman who teaches at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Angela D. Sims, assistant professor of ethics and black church studies.
Sims is working with Baylor University's Institute for Oral History on a project called "Remembering Lynching: Strategies of Resistance and Vision of Justice."
You can read more about it at the page to which I've linked you in the previous paragraph, but I want to say here how important it is for people of faith to remember the sordid side of their history and to try to understand how it happened so it won't be repeated. And obviously among the examples in that sordid side one finds the excesses of the Crusades, the Holocaust, support for slavery and much more.
It should cause us to be humble and careful about the positions we adopt today, though it rarely seems to.
Sims had done a dissertation on this subject and was preparing to defend it in the academic process but decided to expand it to an oral history once she heard the Rev. Wallace Hartsfield, a well-known Kansas City pastor and civil rights activist, describe a Florida lynching he witnessed. That led her to additional research and training through Baylor. Hartsfield for many years was the pastor of the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church on Linwood Boulevard, and there aren't many civil rights issues in which he didn't play an important part.
If you want to read transcripts from some of Sims' interviews, visit www.baylor.edu/oralhistory and search the collections for "rembering lynching". Or click here. You may find access to these transcripts restricted but you can contact Baylor for help.
Sims, by the way, is planning a book, Conversations with Elders: African-Americans Remember Lynching, which Baylor University Press plans to publish next year.
(The lynching photo here today is from this University of Chicago site.)
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FURTHER IDENTIFYING GIFFORDS
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, badly wounded in a shooting Saturday in Tucson, has identified herself increasingly as a Jewish woman, this report says, and has drawn on that tradition to guide her thinking about politics and life in general. It's further proof that, whether we want to be or not, we're all theologians and, in the end, must decide what path we'll follow or whether we'll reject all traditional religions. I hope all of us of every faith will continue to keep her in our thoughts and prayers as she struggles to recover from this catastrophe.