Victims’ rights advocates are on a mission to expose past injustices in Rapides Parish.
They are uncovering secrets by digging into the past.
A past resident tells us how a lynching experience affected his life.
As a young boy, Larry Smith says he found a horrific sight on the corner of 9th and Casson Street.
Keisha Swafford, News Reporter says, “Nearly 60 years ago, a young Larry Smith found a lynched man right here, in front of the Casson Community Center. He says it still haunts him to this day.”
Reverend Larry Smith says, “Obviously, it was very, very traumatizing to us and something you never ever forget so you try to push it to the back of your mind so that you don’t see it anymore or think about it anymore.”
Michael Wynne heard about Larry’s story and decided to create the Memorial Lynching Victims Project.
“Just thinking about how lynching occurs where a person suffocates to death for no reason at all, it’s just a crime that should be over with, but it’s still happening.”
Wynne and other victim rights’ advocates honored these victims by taking soil samples of each individual lynching.
Victims’ Rights Advocate Stephanie Belgard says, “Wilbur Compton died on November 14, 1958, in Alexandria. The coroner, according to the Town Talk newspaper, ruled the hanging a suicide.”
Smith says the lynching turned a safe place for children into something dangerous.
“Each time I put my foot on the Casson Street Community Center grounds, I could still see that man in my head.”
Smith says he supports the work Michael Wynne has done to uncover historical lynching accounts.
Phase 2 of the project will in January of 2023 where formal memorial ceremonies will be conducted on the steps of the Rapides Parish Courthouse.