Discuss your investigation

This website may be the first time this picture of violence is accessible to you, and it's appropriate to pause and reflect on something which was this significant and widespread. What do you do with this information? If you have become interested in the quiet heroism of Monroe Work, the bravery of Ida Wells or Jovita Idár, or the determination of Leonidas Dyer, here are some further steps you can take.

1. Ask yourself what you are feeling.

There is no wrong answer, but notice what are your initial feelings from exploring this lesson. Does your reaction lean more towards shock or surprise? Do you feel skeptical? If it is one of these, take note of what questions you might want to ask. Some people encounter the map as something upsetting or enraging (senses are activated). Others might react to the history with sadness (feeling of withdrawal).

2. If this history is new to you, pause to listen.

In today's newspapers and media, there is still injustice and rhetoric coming from defenders of white supremacy — people who still don’t believe other races deserve the same respect or rights as white Americans. You have seen on this map just how worthless the lives of black Americans have been treated as, long after the end of slavery. This history is the context behind one current slogan in the USA: "Black lives matter". There is a strong passion behind this slogan because for hundreds of years Black lives did not matter to anyone in charge of the law.

One of the most important things you can do as a citizen is to pay attention when someone has lost the same rights as you because of discrimination or hatred. Too often, the people who are describing their own experience receive only more doubt and suspicion. You can take a moment to remember that a long history precedes your perspectives and experiences growing up.

When we stop to listen, we give ourselves the chance to learn something new, and (perhaps) find a way to make the problem better. The NetImpact blog has a good article and more resources for having meaningful conversations.

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3. Share this story with another two friends.

Powerful stories (and stories about heroes) want to be passed on. Share this website with a classmate, or your parents, or your history teacher. Then ask them what parts they thought were most surprising, or confusing, or the most questionable. You should not be afraid to disagree or to have noticed something different from what they did.

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4. Make a donation to the national Memorial to Peace and Justice which is being built in 2017.

An organization called the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama has been working on human rights and injustices like this for over 27 years. In 2016, they announced they are fundraising to build the first-ever lynching memorial and a museum in order to teach about this chapter of the past. They also have placed historical markers at many specific sites in the South where lynchings occurred. EJI is an organization that you can sign up to follow to become an active part of helping. Or perhaps your history class would like to raise a small amount to make a donation to the Memorial representing the powerful discussion you had in class.

After the Memorial is open in 2018, you can take a trip to Montgomery, Alabama to visit it. If you cannot visit, but you live in a county that had a history of lynching, you can lobby your county government to retrieve the stone column from the Memorial which represents the memory of the victims from your area.

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1. When information is enraging, take a break offline.

The updates we get from social media and the online comments on the internet are not always helpful to a physical and mental need to stay healthy. It is okay to take time to unplug, to discharge angry energy, and spend some time conversing with friends in real life.

Turn off your computer or put down your phone, and come back to this page later.

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2. Look more closely at the heroes.

You can engage online with more positive aspects of history, because every generation in the past has also had brave heroes. You could choose anyone unfamiliar to you among the Heroes in 1916 and search online for photos, a documentary, or a podcast about them. For example: google here for Jovita Idár and see if you can find the story how she stood down the Texas Rangers. Try hunting in the University of Chicago's digital repository of Ida Wells to find a photo of her at age 55 and investigate how she continued fighting.

Finally, you can honor your feelings by sharing your resources with people who envision things better (even if it starts with a $5 donation or 5 hours). If you combine efforts with your classmates, you can multiply your effect.

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3. Make a donation to the national Memorial to Peace and Justice which is being built in 2017.

An organization called the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama has been working on human rights and injustices like this for over 27 years. In 2016, they announced they are fundraising to build the first-ever lynching memorial and a museum in order to teach about this chapter of the past. They also have placed historical markers at many specific sites in the South where lynchings occurred. EJI is an organization that you can sign up to follow to become an active part of helping. Or perhaps your history class would like to raise a small amount to make a donation to the Memorial representing the powerful discussion you had in class.

After the Memorial is open in 2018, you can take a trip to Montgomery, Alabama to visit it. If you cannot visit, but you live in a county that had a history of lynching, you can lobby your county government to retrieve the stone column from the Memorial which represents the memory of the victims from your area.

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1. Teachers: share your enthusiasm for history.

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You can request access to the Teacher’s Guide to MonroeWorkToday, coming in autumn of 2017. Yet this website is only one of many great tools that can be used in the classroom and in homework assignments. Here are some other resources:

The website Teaching Tolerance is a hub for educators to share news, resources and support. It is perhaps the best place to start for discovering new material of any topic.

Facing History has more than 20 short lessons or readings on the topic of lynching. (They also have dozens of other topics which can be searched in their collection.)

To teach the Reconstruction era over the course of several weeks, there is a well-tested Classroom Unit with many supporting materials.

EDSITEment! by the NEH has a full lesson plan to teach about the campaign in the 1920s that tried to pass a federal law to stop the terrorism of white supremacy in that era.

The Library of Congress has teaching materials for two important topics: Jim Crow and Segregation and A Century in the Fight for Freedom, each with a Teacher's Guide.

To assign your students to investigate original documents of 100 years ago, here are a couple of online sources:

DigitalHistory hosts an exhibit called Explorations: The Debate over Lynching Begins with dozens of documents and letters that have been converted to digital text to read on-screen.

A digital exhibit called Visualizing the Red Summer hosts an archive of over 700 scanned documents, newsclippings, political cartoons, and photos related to the violence of the "Red Summer" of 1919.

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Go bigger:

How does history affect your life?

The amazing and frightening part of history is that it never goes away. It changed the world we live in now. Its thousands of stories built the culture that became part of us. The heroes you met on these pages demonstrate that history is not just about famous leaders at the top (who get all the credit). Likewise the things you do today, behind the scenes, will be historical too:

4. White people can say something when you hear the echoes of white supremacy or prejudice.

The biggest problem in Monroe Work's era is the same one as today: people who are good often stay quiet even when something very unjust is happening. It's always easier to avoid risking a conflict over ideas — which is why so many people do that... it is easier. But when something is important to your principles, then it's time to stand up. If you hear another student (or teacher or a coworker) who is using stereotypes to describe a whole race of people, tell them that you don't agree. There are ways to focus on what they said without criticizing them personally. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) wrote a suggestion guide for dozens of situations: "Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry."

If an act of hatred/vandalism occurs in your community, the SPLC also has a thorough guide and inspiration to help, called "Ten Ways to Fight Hate." It starts with a similar principle: "Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance."

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5. Ask a friend to debate (respectfully) about the death penalty.

Of course people disagree about politics because of their own perspectives and upbringing. The death penalty is no different. However, one thing is certain about this history with a direct line to today. The reason that lynching finally disappeared in the United States was not because of the congressional bill of Rep. Dyer (which the US Senate would not pass). Nor was it because public opinion finally overpowered hatred due to the letter-writing campaigns and investigations of other heroes. Instead, the numbers of lynchings of black Americans declined only as the death penalty in each state became easier to apply, more often, and more swiftly by the courts. Towns steeped in white supremacy found another way to satisfy the ‘justice’ they sought. They could move it into their court system so that the outcome was legitimized. Since the end of lynching, the application of the death penalty has been overwhelmingly done upon African Americans when they are tried for a white victim. The death penalty is far more rare when the crime was committed upon a victim belonging to a minority group.

The death penalty is not the subject of this website — but might be a topic you become interested in. History simply challenges us to pause and evaluate our opinions. When we reflect on our core values, plus the new information, that's when our honest convictions get formed.

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6. Connect to organizations trying to stop injustice.

If you are ready to take a more active part in thinking about racial injustice, then subscribe to the news site Colorlines which is published by the organization Race Forward. The newsletter can give you updates about current events, articles, lectures and campaigns to get involved.

Or following the facebook page of @BlackLivesMatter can connect you to current events and be a reminder that we live in historical times, all of the time.

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As a statement of disclosure: the MonroeWorkToday website is not affiliated with any of the nonprofit organizations mentioned above. Of course there are many other important organizations that can be found online and in your own community.

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