Brie Smiley

For a semester, I researched the lives of three unknown black men who were accused of arson and lynched in Pickens County in October 1886. My partner and I found the names of these men, Harry Kirk, Ben Fort and Abram Hinton who had been lost in a vacuum of time in the small microfilm of the West Alabamian. This course will always be, for me, one of my proudest accomplishments. The course allowed for me to become a better researcher and a better intellectual.

As an African American Studies major, the contemporary issues of African Americans look almost identical to the issues of the ‘past’. This investigative research bridges a gap. Though these men were murdered over a century ago in rural Alabama, the presumption of guilt, ordinary state sponsored violence and the passivity surrounding their brutal murders is as fresh as the modern murders of African Americans and Black Immigrants.

This course also made a connection between Southern memory and White supremacy. The ritualistic nature of lynchings and as well as the creation of monuments to honor Confederate soldiers solidified for me, a more intimate understanding of the South. The forgotten histories of Black Southern Memory and the identity of Black Southerners being explored was also a valuable part of the course.

Coming to class was an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. This class was transformative and I am sure none of my classmates will ever forget what they encountered here. What we take from this class, we will all surely carry into the next.