A lynching memorial marker was stolen Friday just hours after it was installed in St. Johns County. The marker was in honor of Isaac Barrett, who was was lynched in Orangedale County in 1897. Despite the marker not being present, the dedicatoin, continued as planned on Saturday. The cast aluminum marker, which was about 4 feet-by 6 feet wide and sat atop a concrete base, had been donated by the Equal Justice Initiative, as part of its nationwide lynching memorial project.
“We thought that we lived in a better community that that,” said museum Director Gayle Phillips. She said her staff are “heartbroken” over the markers vandalism.
“We can disagree about a lot of different things, but it doesn’t give me the right to destroy somebody else’s property because I disagree with it. And I think that we have to get to the point where we respect each other as human beings again,” she said.
St. Johns County provided a makeshift marker for the ceremony while the search continues for the thieves.
Issac Barrett, an African American tenant farmer, was lynched in St. Johns County, Florida on June 5, 1897, after he was accused of assaulting the family of his white employer. According to press accounts, Barrett had a disagreement with the family about money owed to him and the employer’s wife called him a racial slur. Shortly after, Barrett was accused of attacking them and their children. While officers were transporting Barrett to the local magistrate, a mob of twelve armed, masked white men abducted him in the Orangedale area and hanged him from an oak tree along the riverbank as a “confession” as evidence that he deserved his fate.
Like nearly all documented lynchings victims, Isaac Barrett never had a chance to defend himself in a court of law and was killed without a trial. Leading up to the dedication, local students submitted essays and artwork on the topic of lynchings in the United States. Civil rights activist and author Rodney Hurst Sr. spoke to the crowd on the importance of the marker’s dedication and how he has dedicated his life to fighting injustices and documenting what it means to be living while Black in the United States.
The dedication was in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). EJI believes more must be done to advance our collective goal of equal justice for all. The St. Johns Remembrance Project and Lincolnville Museum also collaborated with the EJI to present and dedicate the maker to the hundreds of Blacks that prematurely died by violent intimidation.
Leading up to the dedication, local students submitted essays and artwork on the topic of lynchings in the United States. Civil rights activist and author Rodney Hurst Sr. spoke to the crowd on the importance of the marker’s dedication and how he has dedicated his life to fighting injustices and documenting what it means to be living while Black in the United States.