A century ago, a Black man named Ell Persons was accused of a murder with no proof. He was lynched in front of thousands of people.
But like most racial terror lynchings of the time, Ell Persons’ death was not merely a punishment for a singular crime. It was meant to send a message to the entire Black community that any progress toward equality would not be tolerated. The year before, thousands of Black men defied the social norms and mobilized to vote in an obvious threat to the status quo.
Though Ell Persons’ death made headlines across the nation in 1917, his story is virtually unknown today. In this first season of Civil Wrongs, a new podcast, we walk you through what happened, introduce you to people still connected to his story today, and show how the injustices that contributed to his death persist in false confessions.
Subscribe to the Institute for Public Service Reporting’s newsletter, consider giving a donation, and follow our work at psrmemphis.org.