Stuart Bristow

By nadelmedico February 1, 2018

As a recent graduate, I take great pride in my time spent at the capstone. I was exposed to various subjects that challenged my young mind and my perception of the world around me. Rather than any economics or finance course, it was Dr. Giggie’s course that molded my mind with valuable insight that went far beyond a grade in a college course. Dr. Giggie’s Southern Memory course was one that promoted an intellectual curiosity of the troubling past our county has gone through. I am much better not only as a student, but as a person after taking this course and I cannot recommend this course enough to my peers.

One may say; “This history is just that, history. Racial violence isn’t as prevalent in our country anymore and lynching’s have not occurred in a long time, why have a course dedicated to this?” Quite frankly, I was one of those people to ask the similar question. As the semester progressed, the answer to that question was right in front of me. We live in a society where physical lynching’s may not occur anymore, but there is still a clear unjust systematic persecution of African Americans in the courtroom. We may not be stripping African Americans of their lives through the outlet of lynching’s, we now have chosen to do so in the courtroom and change needs to happen.

This past semester was an opportunity for me to work with bright individuals from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. We collectively sought to commemorate the memory of lynching victims in Pickens County, Alabama, but in order to do this research in an effective manner, it was important to have an understanding of why the research itself was important. We saw the importance of our research by taking a look at various pieces of literature that addressed the racial prejudice’s that have challenged our country’s past. We also saw the importance of our research when we had the opportunity of taking a trip to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama. We knew what the EJI stood for prior to the trip based on our research of its founder, Bryan Stevenson. It was when we walked through the doors at EJI where our understanding of their endeavors was validated. EJI has demonstrated a clear determination of addressing the problems that have constrained African Americans from living life to their greatest potential. In the auditorium, EJI has over 200 jars of soil that were collected at each location of gruesome lynching’s that occurred centuries ago. It was when I saw the jar of my specific lynching victim, Will Archer, where my appreciation for this research was vindicated. I then saw how important it is for myself to conduct meaningful research, not only to address an issue of the past, but to help be a voice to prevent the same issues to trouble our present generation.

Like Will Archer, many of the lynching victims that were represented by the jars in EJI were subject to the racist rhetoric of white southerners in the community and in the courtroom. It was in my research where I found that this troubling event could have been avoided, yet there were no efforts from judicial leaders to help. This is a problem that needs to be further analyzed to prevent this phenomenon from continuing in our court system today. By taking a course like Dr. Giggie’s Southern Memory, we can be more aware of the problem and the correct steps to eradicate systematic mishandlings of African American cases in the courtroom.

As academics, it is our responsibility to do this research. It is our responsibility to look at the past events that trouble our society and see what went wrong. We clearly saw racial violence has occurred, and now it is our responsibility to prevent it from happening again. We have consistently sought to seek justice for Americans, but it is up to us to ensure that justice is served in the same manner for all Americans, regardless of the color of your skin. I chose to study this complex issue because of my clear cut passion for justice. As a law school hopeful, this course was perfect for me to get my foot in the legal door. As the semester progressed, I found myself working tirelessly not for a good grade in the course, but to memorialize the victims of clear racism in society and in the courtroom. Perhaps this sentiment as well as the others from my colleagues can spread awareness on the issues that may not have ever been thought of before, and if awareness is spread, we know that we are off to a good start.