Memorial service held at EJI marker in Montevallo

MONTEVALLO – Community members gathered near the site of Montevallo’s recently installed Equal Justice Initiative historical marker on Saturday, Aug. 29 to remember the victims of a lynching that occurred in the city in 1889.

The memorial service commemorated the 131st anniversary of the lynching of two unidentified African American men who were accused of killing a white man but were denied their constitutional right to a trial.

“We’re here to recognize an injustice that was done,” resident Bobby Pierson said. “You are innocent until you are proven guilty. These individuals may have done it, or they might not have. All they had to do was wait a couple of days, and there wouldn’t have been a lynching.”

The Montevallo Community Remembrance Project Coalition, a group of citizens and allies throughout Shelby County, including the local chapter of the NAACP, began working to bring a marker to Montevallo shortly after the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery in 2018.

The Montevallo City Council voted in August 2019 to approve the marker’s installation at the corner of Main and Shelby streets.

The marker was installed on Monday, June 8.

“I want us to remember that we stand here right now not just for these two men, but for all of the men in Montevallo, all of the men of Shelby County, whose names we don’t know,” resident Joyce Jones said. “Change doesn’t happen fast. Change happens in small steps, and we’ve got to be willing to do the work.”

Several attendees laid flowers at the foot of the marker during the service.

Mayor Hollie Cost thanked the coalition members for their work on the project.

“Without your leadership, we would not have this physical symbol that says this happened in our city,” Cost said. “It’s an atrocity. As the current mayor of Montevallo for the next two months, I want to issue a public apology for what happened to these men and to their families. Things like this can never ever happen in our city again.”

Kenneth Dukes, one of the newly elected City Council members, urged Montevallo residents to be involved in local government.

“We have to band together to stand unified for what’s right,” Dukes said. “You don’t have to have a seat on the council to make a difference. Remember, those people sitting there represent you whether you voted for them or not, and you have the right to hold them accountable for what they do.”

For more information about the Montevallo Community Remembrance Project Coalition, visit Sites.google.com/view/montevallocrp/community-contributions.