The Community Remembrance Project of Boone County will host a soil collection ceremony and memorial plaque rededication from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the site of the 1923 lynching of James T. Scott at South Providence and Stewart roads.
Scott is one of two Black people confirmed to have been lynched in Boone County. Thursday’s ceremony is intended to acknowledge acts of racial violence in Boone County and address the community’s legacy of racial terrorism and lynching.
Three jars of soil will be collected. One will be displayed locally, one will go to the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City and one will be displayed at the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, which has been collecting soil from lynching sites across the South for display at its memorial.
Brittani Fults of the Community Remembrance Project said it’s been five years since the memorial plaque was placed at the site of the former Stewart Road bridge over the MKT Railroad. Once the plaque is rededicated, the public will be encouraged to participate in the soil collection.
Thursday will mark the 98th anniversary of Scott’s lynching. A janitor at the MU medical school, he was murdered by a white mob after a young white woman alleged he had sexually assaulted her. The mob had kidnapped him from the Boone County Jail.
The ceremony will feature remarks from Columbia Mayor Brian Treece, Northern Boone County Commissioner Janet Thompson and the Revs. C.W. Dawson and Clyde Ruffin. Ruffin is senior Pastor at Secondary Missionary Baptist Church, the church Scott and his family attended.
Community Remembrance Project member Brad Boyd-Kennedy said the group started three years ago as a book study discussing race relations, systemic racism and reparations. A group formed from the book study with hopes to educate Boone County about its racist past, and Fults later joined.
With help from the Equal Justice Initiative and others, the group evolved into a chapter of the Community Remembrance Project of Missouri, which works to raise awareness and foster conversation about Missouri’s racist history and to memorialize victims of racial terrorism.
Fults also was a member of the Association of Black Graduate and Professional Students and eventually earned a spot on the organization’s executive board when she attended MU. One of its projects was placing the historical marker at the site of Scott’s lynching.
The Equal Justice Initiative is a nonprofit group created in 1989 by author and lawyer Bryan Stevenson to represent those who have been wrongly convicted or illegally incarcerated, to work with marginalized communities to change the narrative on race in the country and to provide resources and research to advocates and policymakers. In 2018, the group established the National Association of Justice and Peace and the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Incarceration.
Boyd-Kennedy said Scott and another Black man, George Bush, are the only documented victims of lynchings in Boone County. Bush was captured by an armed white mob and lynched from the second story window of the Boone County Courthouse in 1853 after a young white woman told her mother he had mistreated her.
“That’s history; that’s part of who Boone County is, and we don’t want people to hide this anymore. We want them to be out in the open,” Fults said. “That’s how you disrupt racism and systems of oppression. You have to call them out and address them. You have to build solidarity while you do that so that it’s a collective of folks dismantling these systems of oppression and saying ‘No, we want these stories and need these stories, and we are OK with you telling them to us.’”
Missouri is known to have had the second highest number of lynchings outside the South.
Fults and Boyd-Kennedy said the Community Remembrance Project of Boone County’s next steps are to memorialize Bush’s lynching, to continue providing educational opportunities and to further research racial injustices and Black history in Boone County.
“History has been rewritten and rewritten and erased, and each time it’s rewritten, it’s really difficult to keep it authentic to its truth, whether that’s talking about Mr. Scott or Mr. Bush and both of their murders,” Fults said. “It requires a lot of work, resources and tools to try to find out as much as we can so we can share and not devalue those stories.”