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Oral history project records elderly blacks on the horror of lynchings

September 20, 2010

Gwendolyn Hill grew up in Mineola during the 1930s, hearing her grandmother and other elders talking about how black men faced the constant threat of being kidnapped and hanged by vigilante gangs.

“We were just overwhelmed with fear,” said Hill, an Oak Cliff resident, in a 2009 oral history interview collected at Baylor University in Waco.

As an 8-year-old in Hazelhurst, Ga., Wallace Hartsfield saw the body of a hanged black man dragged through the streets by white men in a truck.

“I couldn’t get it out of my mind,” said Hartsfield, a retired pastor and civil rights activist in Kansas City, Mo., in another recent interview collected at Baylor. “I think for a long time I hated white people.”

Hill and Hartsfield are two of more than 75 people interviewed by Angela Sims, a professor at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, to collect memories of lynching. More…

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