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City Council approves commemorative plaque for victims of lynching

Oxford City Council approved a resolution during its March 16 meeting to mark a location Uptown to remember Simon Garnet and Henry Corbin, two Black men who were lynched in Oxford in the late 1800s.

One of the murderers was a Miami University graduate who later sent a letter to then-university president Alfred Upham bragging about his role.

The resolution follows the work of the Miami course “Truth and Reconciliation Project” in the department of family science and social work. 

In the course, graduate students worked with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a nonprofit organization based in Alabama, to uncover details about the lynchings of Garnet and Corbin.

The marker will be placed in either Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park or Oxford Memorial Park and unveiled during a civil rights conference in June, though a final location has yet to be decided.

Fran Jackson, president of Oxford’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter, said the commemorative marker was a good first step to raise consciousness about racial issues in Oxford, but there is still work to do.

“Can we go beyond this marker?” Jackson asked. “I’d like to highlight the beauty [of the Black community] and what we have done through a lot of hardships and turmoils … I’d like to see some of the joy of Black resilience come out in some form or fashion.”

Enjoy Oxford, a marketing organization for the city, currently offers a self-guided Black History in Oxford tour on its website. City Council members suggested adding a QR code to the commemorative plaque to link more information about Corbin and Garnet and connect the new site to the tour.

Anthony James, director of the family science program at Miami, said the project will include an essay contest for Butler County schools to raise awareness of the area’s Black history. The winner will receive a college scholarship.

“That’s an important part of the next generation in hearing this story,” James said, “wrestling with the difficulties of the past, but also hopefully building within them a sense of, ‘We also don’t want to go back there. We want to be different.’”

Dana Miller is a member of Oxford’s Historical and Architectural Preservation Commission, which approved the marker. He said they had to give special consideration to potential negative reactions to the initiative.

“The text is very graphic and descriptive of what happened, and I think it has the potential to cause a lot of emotions to come up around the text and the memory,” Miller said. “There’s probably people in the community that had family members involved that are still around here.”

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Miller added that relatives of both Garnet and Corbin still live near Oxford and may be present for the unveiling ceremony in June.

The next City Council meeting will be streamed on YouTube at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 6.