How a memorial could help lead America—and Christians—to repentance from a dark history.
In 1902 a black man named Alonzo Tucker was lynched from a bridge in the coastal town of Coos Bay, Oregon, a few hours south of my home. It is the only lynching on record in the state, and the limited known details were enough to catch my throat. Tucker had been accused of assaulting a white woman, and an angry mob had formed to take his life in the streets. He was jailed, partly to protect him from the crowds. But at some point, he panicked and somehow escaped, hiding for a night beneath some docks.
In the morning, a band of men found Tucker and shot him as he tried to run away. Tucker may have died from his wounds—no one knows for certain—but to make sure he was dead and to make a spectacle of the event, the crowd hung Tucker from the Fourth Street Bridge, right in the heart of that small Oregon coal-mining town.
I stumbled upon Tucker’s story while researching racial injustice in Oregon and couldn’t get it out of my mind. We had a family beach trip coming up, and I told my husband we needed to detour through Coos Bay to visit the site where Tucker died. He drove to the hardware store, bought some lumber, and made a large white cross to bring with us.
Once in town, I couldn’t find the Fourth Street Bridge. My husband dropped me at the local history museum and took our kids to play in a park. I awkwardly brought up the lynching with the man at the museum, who knew exactly what I was referring to. He gave me as much information as he had, making copies from local history books. I asked him if the museum would ever consider making an exhibit about Tucker, but the man shook his head sadly. “We just don’t have enough information” he said. “There isn’t even a single photo …