JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville City Council spiked a plan on Tuesday to install a memorial honoring Duval County’s lynching victims in downtown’s Hemming Park alongside a 63-foot monument honoring Confederate soldiers.
Councilwoman Anna Lopez Brosche introduced the plan last year to acquire a pillar bearing the names of the seven people who were documented as lynching victims in Duval County that is currently displayed at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala., which commemorates more than 4,000 black people who were killed in lynchings nationwide between 1877 and 1950.
However, the legislation never received consideration by the council, which voted 14 to 0 to withdraw it without discussion.
After Brosche introduced the plan, Council President Aaron Bowman requested the legislation not advance until a special committee decided how the city should use its public spaces to commemorate the city’s history, warts and all. That committee hasn’t met in months, nor has it issued a final report of recommendations that was due at the end of April.
Last week, several council committees voted to withdraw Brosche’s legislation after Bowman requested they clear the council’s agenda of bills introduced by council members who will be leaving office next month. Brosche will leave her council seat after unsuccessfully challenging Mayor Lenny Curry in the March election.
The special committee, which included Brosche, discussed criteria for deciding whether to accept memorials from outside groups and said any council member was free to do so on their own.
Although Brosche agreed to not advance her legislation while the special committee performed its work, she said she now believes Bowman created it to quietly sabotage her plan. She said the council’s decision to withdraw the legislation without seeking her input — let alone debating or voting on it — is a sign it lacked enough support to pass.
“It is what it is. It’s unfortunate that this is indicative of how the city of Jacksonville has addressed its racial issues since its inception,” Brosche said. She didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting.
Bowman, who is traveling out of the country, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The withdrawal was supported unanimously in all but one of the three committees that were tasked with reviewing it. Councilman Garrett Dennis was the only one to oppose the decision.
Dennis left Tuesday’s meeting before the council voted on the legislation, but in an interview earlier that day, he said he plans to introduce new legislation to bring the pillar to Hemming Park.
“It’s history. It’s something that actually happened,” Dennis said. “It’s part of the fabric that has made the country what it is today.”
While City Hall has for now abandoned the effort to obtain the pillar from the Alabama memorial, a local group is still trying to bring it Jacksonville.
The memorial has 800 pillars hanging from the ceiling to represent each American county where a lynching occurred. The pillars bear the name of each victim and the date of their deaths.
The memorial also displays duplicates of the pillars that are available for each county to claim.
“To be walking amongst all the memorials and seeking and searching for the Duval County memorial, it’s just overwhelming, the gravity of the disregard for human life,” said Brosche, who has visited the memorial twice.
The Jacksonville Community Remembrance Project hopes to complete the process of claiming the pillar by this fall. The group hasn’t found a location to display the pillar, although it's working to build public interest in the project that could secure a prominent location.