A Boston university is leading a project that attempts to uncover as much information as possible on a number of lynching cold cases that occurred between 1930 and 1970.
The Northeastern University School of Law in Boston is housing the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, which was created in 2007 to make an archive of documents, photographs, news clippings and interviews about as many lynching related deaths as possible.
“Restoring these stories to history is a piece of restorative justice,” Rose Zoltek-Jick, the program’s associate director, said in a statement. “The work of the archive is to prevent closure, to lift them up out of the silence.”
“The persons who have knowledge about these events — the family members, the witnesses — are aging,” Margaret Burnham, a law professor at Northeastern and the founder and director of the project, added. “The documents are disappearing. And if we don’t do this now, this piece of our history will be lost to us and to future generations.”
The project is described as a semester long “clinic,” in which each student is given a half dozen list of murdered black people, with information on each person varying (one example, according to the ABA Journal, is a victim whose only information includes a newspaper headline of their death, with it reading “unknown Negro found in swamp”).
The students then have 11 weeks to learn as much as they can about the victims’ lives and deaths, doing everything from finding news reports and various files, to locating witnesses and relatives.
The Civil rights and Restorative Justice Project follows in suit with a similar endeavor implemented by President Obama. Titled the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes bill, the law allows the FBI to pursue more civil rights cold cases.
According to USA Today, since 1989 authorities across the U.S. have reopened and prosecuted civil rights cold cases, resulting in 24 convictions.