During the student protests against racist event in the fall of 2015, some people shook their head and privately wondered — and even some publicly asked — why were students and residents were so angry, so willing to react and protest.
Perhaps one answer lies in Columbia’s history. This article published in the December 2016 issue of the Columbia Business Times shows a view of Stewart Bridge, now gone, replaced with a portion of Stewart Road. This bridge was the site in 1923 of the lynching of James Scott. For decades his death certificate said he was lynched for rape, although he never had had his day in court. It wasn’t until 2010, the article notes, that his death certificate was corrected to read that he died due to hanging by assailants.
You might be shaking your head — wasn’t that so long ago? Shouldn’t that be forgotten? And yet, my grandfather came to this country due to unrest in Europe in 1914. He never forgot and our family still talks about why he came here to escape the war and violence there. Of course, my family has the privilege and benefit of being able to talk about that war and violence, but how do people talk about lynching? The death of a man without a trial? Perhaps they don’t. And perhaps it’s time we do.
That’s why I’m thrilled to see the recent media coverage of this crime, this subversion of our country’s rule of law. It’s only when we as a society talk about what really happened can we heal. A page on this website lists seven different articles or series on the lynching, but I’m sure I’ve missed some. Are seven articles enough to expose the racism inherent in a crime like this? Have we as a city as a culture done enough to warrant the phrase never again? Does this help make sense of strong reactions against racism?
I don’t know, but I do know I appreciate the work of writers and photographers like Grace Vance who wrote and photographed this piece and the generosity of Brenna McDermott, editor of the Columbia Business Times, who gave me permission to reprint the article via the pdf posted.
December 2016 — Stewart Road/Stewart Bridge, Columbia Business Times. Summary: This piece highlights the fact that a portion of Stewart Road was once Stewart Bridge, the site of Columbia’s last public lynching. Written and photographed by Grace Vance, the piece shows both the view of today and of the past. A pdf of the article is posted with permission from Brenna McDermott, editor of the CBT