Incepted in 2021, The Black Cherry Tree Project works to memorialize victims of racial terror beginning with the 33 African-Americans who were lynched in Jefferson County, Alabama between the mid to late 1800’s and the mid 1900’s. The 33 victims are honored by local artists in an attempt to construct a legacy for each of these victims outside of the tragic nature of their deaths. Selected artists use provided research from Jefferson County Memorial Project to create a effigial art pieces in the medium of their choice to honor the victim they choose to commemorate. Selected artists are put into groups with other artists and community members, given an honoraria, supplies and instruction to aid in their creations.
To cement this project in the fabric of communities, local businesses publicly host the artist's creation for a six week residency in their business location which inherently increases traffic to each participating business. Black-owned businesses will be prioritized to ensure this project has a direct impact to the community it was built to uplift. 33 commemorative black cherry tree saplings will also be planted locally in commemoration of each victim. This project concludes with a commemorative event that celebrates the newfound legacy of these victims of racial terror annually on April 16, the day when Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail.
As the current and future iterations of this project cultivate, it’s impact continues to draw attention to the past, near-past and present due to the unfortunate persistence of racial terror in our global society. As subsequent phases of TBCTP unfold, we hope to expand our reach across the nation and extend this conversation by inviting artists in each of the 50 states to submit a proposals referencing a victim of racial terror from their home state.
This project is supported by the National Performance Network’s (NPN) Southern Artists For Social Change grant. For more information: www.npnweb.org.