February 17, 2022 | Main Spotlight: Commemorating Black History on Main Street | By: Marta Olmos, Communications Coordinator at Main Street America |
This Black History Month, Main Streets across the nation are exploring the power of placemaking to create more inclusive communities. Memorials, signs, public art, and other visible reminders of Black history help to tell the full history and proclaim a commitment to building a more equitable future. The following Main Street Black History initiatives confront painful legacies, celebrate meaningful achievements, and honor the contributions of difference makers.
The Gwinnett Remembrance Coalition, in partnership with the City of Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, the Gwinnett Historical Restoration & Preservation Board, and the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) of Montgomery, Alabama, will dedicate a historical marker honoring the memory of Charles Hale. Mr. Hale, an African American resident of Gwinnett County, was lynched in 1911 in Lawrenceville Square.
Hale was initially arrested on the accusation of assaulting a white woman. An angry mob then stormed the jail, dragged him out to Lawrenceville Square, and murdered him. “It’s the most documented and most recent lynching that occurred in Gwinnett,” Gwinnett Remembrance Coalition member Steve Babb told the Gwinnett Daily Post. A photograph of Mr. Hale was widely distributed as a post card at the time.
The historical marker is located on the west side of Lawrenceville Square. This important memorial is an open recognition of the difficult history of the city and region. By creating a permanent record of this tragedy, Lawrenceville ensures that future generations will know the full history of their city. The memorial also reinforces present-day Gwinnettian’s commitment to overcoming their difficult past and building a more equitable and inclusive future. As Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson said at a Juneteenth ceremony: “as we acknowledge the horrors of our past, I also want to celebrate the journey onward, and the fight of all those who led us to come so far.”
Building More Equitable Main Streets
Memorials, historical markers, public art, and other commemorative placemaking initiatives play a powerful role in making our communities more inclusive. We hope that these examples will inspire you to explore the potential of similar projects based on your district’s Black history. Main Streets should be welcoming, inclusive, and equitable forces for change in our communities and beyond.