What is Justice?: Coping Methods for Families of Lynching Victims

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In 2007, Congress authorized (re)investigations into racially motivated homicides before 1970. While many of these cases would not see “courtroom justice,” victims and their families deserve to have their stories heard. This research project examines a case from 1960 in Louisiana, when five black men, Earnest McFarland, Albert Pitts, David Pitts, Alfred Marshall, and Charlie Willis, were shot by their white employer, Robert Fuller. Only Willis survived the attack. In reviewing a range of both archival and contemporary sources, I encountered a narrative from Willie Mae Pitts Sallie, sister to two of the victims, explaining why she forgave Fuller for his criminal actions. In an effort to further explore how relatives of lynched persons cope with intergenerational racial trauma, I engage Sallie’s response as an illustrative example of the power of storytelling with regard to the public memory of lynching. Storytelling is widely regarded as an identity-building and constitutive tool; for this project I produced a written anthology of short stories, to promote a broadly accessible retelling of this story, enacting a space to cope with the trauma of this memory, as well bring awareness to the trauma that lynching enacts on a family, community, and region.



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