Service Project Remembers Will Brown with Beautification of Burial Site
Community members gathered to honor Will Brown by tending to his burial site in Potter’s Field on Saturday.
Brown was the victim of a gruesome lynching in front of the Douglas County courthouse in 1919.
The scorched and broken remains of Brown’s body were disposed of by the county in a field of unmarked graves, common practice for those who had no money or family to pay for their burial.
A headstone was placed on Brown’s grave by man from California in 2012 after he learned of the lynching while watching a documentary about Henry Fonda.
North of Forest Lawn Cemetery, the field holds the graves of approximately 3912 people. The land is currently owned and maintained by the city of Omaha.
Preston Love Jr., executive director of Black Votes Matter Institute of Community Engagement (BVM), facilitated the event as a service project leading up to the 100-year commemoration of the lynching on September 28.
“The Black Votes Matter tour we taught the kids about Will Brown before and then the stop we made in Montgomery they get it face-to-face,” said Love, referring to the Equal Justice Initiative lynching memorial.
Love organizes an annual Black history tour through the southern United States.
Participants from the tour were encouraged to write essays about Will Brown and attend the beautification at Potter’s Field.
Lauren Burris, a high school Junior who won third prize in the essay contest also participated in the cleanup.
“I talked about how it just wasn’t a lynching like the entire town was pretty much on it, and he was burned and [there] was also more of a political aspect...it was kind of terrorism also,” said Burris.
Elementary age children and their parents attended as well as an OPS social studies teacher and a UNO college student.
The Big Garden provided gloves, tools, and flowers for the project. Attendees pulled overgrown grass and weeds and planted perennials and wildflower seeds, including Brown-eyed Susans and Forget-me-nots.
A commemoration ceremony, put on by the Omaha Community Council for Racial Justice and Reconciliation, will be held on September 28 at 9 a.m. at Douglas County District Court at 1701 Farnam Street. RSVP and event details can be found on Eventbrite.