FLORENCE — Pastor Trevor Crenshaw said in every county across the U.S., the courthouse stands as a visual symbol of justice.
“It is where its citizens seek justice; it is a metaphor for the values of that community. Our courthouse should be a place where both literal and figurative justice reside,” Crenshaw said. "And for white Americans it has. But for African Americans during the first 40 years of its existence, the courthouse represented the opposite."
He said for the first four decades of its existence, the courthouse was a site for slave auctions, “a place where black Americans were bought and sold.”
Crenshaw and other members of Project Say Something spoke at the Lauderdale County Commission on Monday, asking for permission to erect a monument to Dred and Harriet Scott in front of the courthouse.
The Scotts, who once lived in Florence, fought for justice for salves.
Camille Bennett said the Dred Scott decision propelled the nation towards justice. The past year, the members of Project Say Something have been researching and meeting in public forums to do “justice for the people who received no justice here.”
She said the proposed monument is a community effort to “heal our historical wounds.”
Bennett said while other communities across the nation have been battling over removal of Confederate monuments, Project Say Something is working to build something.
“In creating a new monument, we have invited Lauderdale County residents to be an active par of this process,” Bennett said.
She said the process is filled with “unity, excitement and pride,” as well as shared values of “liberty, racial equality and equal justice for all.”
Commission Chairman Danny Pettus said he understands the committee's efforts and he appreciates them.
“I’m as much against slavery and what happened as anyone else,” Pettus said. “We will take a serious look at their proposal. I assure you, it’s not something that we are going to brush off.”
He told the Project Say Something members the commission would take all their information, review it, and then make a decision. Pettus did not commit to when a decision could be made.
“It is a lot to digest and to look over. Really, this is the first time we have heard the entire proposal,” he said.
Brian Murphy, a Project Say Something member, said when the group got to looking into the history of Dred Scott, they were inspired.
“This story has every aspect of values we hold dear. I hope future generations can come and learn about Scott’s family struggles,” Murphy said. “It represents a struggle we all can stand behind.”
Christi Britten, another member of Project Say Something, said art can sometimes promote healing from difficult histories.
She said art can be educational and “bring a mindful awareness of how our histories influence the present and future.”