Many Chattanoogans walk the Walnut Street Bridge without knowledge of the terror and injustice that happened there nearly 120 years ago, but through a new memorial, this unawareness will be remedied.
Trigger Warning: racism, violence, mention of rape
Photo by NoogaToday
The story of Ed Johnson was commemorated through a beautiful sculpture by Jerome Meadows, a full-time studio artist based out of Savannah, Georgia, and was coordinated by the non-profit organization The Ed Johnson Project.
For those that aren’t familiar with his story, Ed Johnson was mob-lynched on March 19, 1906 for the falsely-accused rape of a white woman. It was the first time that the Supreme Court got involved in a criminal case and attempted to stop an execution.
Per the Ed Johnson Project website, “Noah Parden and Styles Hutchens, two African-American attorneys from Chattanooga, provided a courageous and successful defense for Ed Johnson. In spite of death threats, they proceeded with the case after the majority of Johnson’s original legal team believed an appeal of the Hamilton County court ruling would be fruitless and frivolous.”
Johnson’s last words were, “God bless you all, I am a innocent man.”
While the killing went un-memorialized for so long, the spark of awareness born from the memorial is one that will surely last.
As the Ed Johnson Project states, this is a time for remembrance, reconciliation, and healing.
Visit the Ed Johnson Project website for more information about the memorial’s history, the process of making the memorial, and other resources.