Founder of Columbus Black History Month Museum to Lead Annual Wreath-Laying Ceremony Honoring Lynching Victims

Founder of Columbus Black History Month Museum to Lead Annual Wreath-Laying Ceremony Honoring Lynching Victims

By Leslie Hudgins

Founder of the Columbus Black History Month Museum, Johnny Warner, will host the annual wreath-laying ceremony commemorating the lives of Jesse Slayton and Will Miles, who were brutally murdered and lynched in downtown Columbus. The event will take place this Saturday, June 1, 2024, at 10:00 a.m. at the median of Broadway and 11th Street. 

Warner started this tradition in 2005 after discovering the tragic history.  The ceremony has continued annually to honor Jesse Slayton and Will Miles– two men who were murdered, mutilated and lynched on Broadway and 11th Street in Columbus, Ga. on June 1st, 1896.

 "I have been on this journey, trying to elevate awareness and to make people understand that, whether dead or alive, black lives matter," says Warner.

The event took place at 9 a.m. when Jesse Slayton was on trial for the rape of a White woman. During the trial, an angry mob formed outside the courtroom armed with shotguns, pistols and a noose. The mob stormed the courtroom, dragged Jesse outside then proceeded to fatally shoot him at the top of the courtroom stairs. The mob then placed the noose around his neck before dragging Slayton’s body from 10th Street to Broadway.

"It kind of shocked me, you know, because it's been hidden; there's so much hidden here in Columbus. especially the tragic history of the monstrosities against the black community,” said Warner while reflecting on his initial findings. 

Slayton's dead body was hung on a tree at 11th Street, and bullets poured into his lifeless body once again.

After mutilating Slayton's body, the mob turned their hatred towards Will Miles, who was in jail, despite his accusations of assaulting a white woman being declared a mistrial. Miles was taken from the Negro Jail on the same day, shot and hanged next to Slayton. The mutilated bodies remained suspended from the tree on Broadway until 8:00 p.m. Signs were hung on both bodies, stating, "Any individual who commits a similar crime will face the same treatment!" A grand jury later failed to gather any information from local residents despite the fact that both men had been executed in broad daylight with dozens of witnesses. The two men are buried in unmarked graves in Porterdale Cemetery.

Warner aims to use the wreath-laying ceremony as a platform to amplify awareness of African American history in Columbus and honor the memory of the two men whose lives were tragically cut short. Join him on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. at the Broadway and 11th Street median to honor these two lives as well as countless others lost in Columbus’ dark history.

Why this is important to the Black and Hispanic community: This news article is important to the Black and Hispanic communities because it addresses the historical injustices and racial violence that have deeply affected these communities. By commemorating the lives of Jesse Slayton and Will Miles, the annual wreath-laying ceremony not only honors their memory but also raises awareness of the broader history of racial atrocities. This event fosters a sense of community, remembrance, and resilience, highlighting the ongoing struggle for racial justice and the importance of acknowledging and addressing past wrongs.

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