Sitting deep in the woods, within a slight clearing, was the oak tree. Its trunk was massive and burly, with branches strong enough to bear the weight of the African American men, women, and children who met their final moments at its feet. Some of the white children, some of whom had been present during some of the lynchings, began to refer to it as the Hanging Tree. After Myron’s final hanging in 1961, someone had anonymously tied a rope around the base of the trunk, its fibers painted red…
On this particular warm morning in 2014, however, a gathering of teenagers, led by their American History teacher, her mother, and a few of her friends and colleagues, approached the clearing. Bringing up the rear were camera crews and reporters from an assortment of local news stations. When this assembly arrived at the tree, the students formed a circle around it, each grabbing the hand of the person next to them.
“That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Rebecca Harper whispered in her daughter’s ear as the students formed their circle and held hands.
“Truly,” Alice replied, both stunned by her students’ gesture and overcome with emotion.
Standing next to her, Henry Cooper slipped his hand into hers. Alice glanced down at their joined hands. History was one thing, yes, and the future was another.
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