Quilters depict lynchings in Roswell exhibit

Quilter Odessa Huff says her latest project has been an emotional journey.

The 75-year-old Atlanta native created two quilts for the Fulton County Remembrance Coalition quilt project illustrating the lynching of African Americans during a 73-year period of U.S. history.

“I did one on Dennis Hubert,” Huff told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday. “He was a Morehouse student in 1930 … He was approached by seven white men, beaten, shot and hanged on the front elementary school yard full of children.”

Huff is one of five women quilters who brainstormed the quilting project titled “Lives Taken, Lives Remembered.”

Their eight quilts honoring African Americans whose deaths were documented by the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama will be displayed at Roswell River Landing on Azalea Drive in Roswell Friday through Sunday.

Credit: Courtesy Hope Mays

Credit: Courtesy Hope Mays

The show is a Roswell Roots Festival event for Black History Month and features the work of the Remembrance Quilters: Huff, Tanya Heldman, Robin Black, Kristi McDonough and Janet Saboor.

The quilt project was started by Heldman. The Roswell resident was introduced to her fellow quilters and The Fulton County Remembrance Coalition at the start of the pandemic through the Equal Justice Initiative.

The two organizations are partners in engaging communities in healing and reconciliation of the history of racial terrorism, the Coalition website reads.

Heldman said she was inspired by visiting the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum in Montgomery and left there wanting to bring more awareness to racial injustice.

“I’ve never seen a memorial like that to African Americans,” Heldman said of the museum. “It was just so powerful.”

The Remembrance Coalition has made soil collections near the location of at least 35 lynchings that took place in Fulton County, including Mack Henry Brown, a man remembered in Heldman’s quilt.

His body was found on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in Roswell in December 1936, handcuffed, his feet bound by wire, and shot twice in the back, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time.

Huff’s second quilt depicts the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre in which the AJC has reported thousands of white men attacked Black people at random on a Saturday night in September.

The quilters met virtually for a year and a half developing their project and showing each other their work, Huff said.

“I wasn’t immediately enthused about the project and it grew on me,” Huff said. “I had to grapple with it but the most rewarding part about doing the project is educating people about what has occurred.”

The Atlanta native said she’s been quilting for 40 years. She said she brought Hubert’s quilt to a soil collection event honoring him last fall and met his family members.

“I found out his mother was a principal at that (elementary) school and she came outside to find her son hanging from a tree,” Huff said.

The “Lives Taken, Lives Remembered” exhibit will be held 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. (reception) today, and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Roswell River Landing, 245 Azalea Drive.

More events

Fulton County Remembrance Coalition will hold soil collection events to commemorate two men who were lynched in East Point.

Today, Zeb Long will be honored during a soil collection at 12:30 p.m. in Sumner Park, 1835 Warren Way, East Point.

On Sept. 24, 1906, 50 white men forcibly broke into the East Point jail and abducted Long, a city statement said. Long was dragged with a rope around his neck and was lynched on a pine tree in the woods half a mile from town.

Feb. 26, Warren Powell will be remembered during a soil collection at 12:30 p.m. at 2847 Main Street in East Point.

According to an East Point statement, a masked mob of nearly 20 white men seized the 14-year-old Powell from the East Point jail and lynched him. He had been arrested and jailed earlier that day for allegedly attacking a white girl while she was walking through the woods on her way home from school, according to the city.