KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Community leaders including Mayor Sly James and Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel will hold a ceremony tonight to remember the lynching death of Levi Harrington in West Kansas City on April 3, 1882.
Mr. Harrington was abducted from police custody and lynched by a large mob of several thousand participants at the Bluff Street Bridge in the West Bottoms. Newspaper coverage from time period indicated he was innocent of the crime that incited the pack, but “[h]e was a colored man, and that was enough for the maddened crowd.”
Tonight’s event, organized by efforts of the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City, the Missouri Conference of the NAACP, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), Missouri Faith Voices, and Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, seeks to acknowledge the tragic murder of Mr. Harrington and to connect Missouri to a larger discussion of history and a nationwide effort to reconcile our past and present in ways that are truthful and inclusive. There is an urgent need to challenge the absence of recognition in the public space of the subject of lynching and racial conflict in our history. Kansas Citians are largely unaware that this murder occurred.
Levi Harrington was one of at least 60 African American victims of racial terror lynching killed in Missouri between 1877 and 1950, as identified by EJI in its 2015 report, “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror.” The report documents more than 4,000 lynchings of black people in the United States during the post-Reconstruction era. In 2017, EJI supplemented this research and identified additional states, including Missouri, in which these acts of violence were most common.
These events inflicted deep psychological wounds on communities of color, and this legacy of violence still profoundly influences contemporary race relations throughout the country and Kansas City.
On April 26, 2018, EJI will launch a national museum in Montgomery, Alabama, devoted to filling a gap in the current narrative: The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. This museum will include soil collected from the sites of the racial terror lynchings identified in the EJI report across the country, including soil from where Mr. Harrington was killed.
Tonight, Rev. Dr. Vernon Howard of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is expected to give a prayer, followed by discusssion from Glenn North and Geri Sanders of the Black Archives of Mid-America.