Lynched on December 30, 1923
Soil Collection on January 3, 2021
On Sunday, December 30, 1923, Eugene Burnam was lynched by four white men who suspected him of informing police about their moonshine still. He was brutally beaten and shot in broad daylight, and those responsible were quickly identified, but never brought to trial. One of the men later became a Jacksonville police officer.
Burnam died near Dinsmore in Northwest Jacksonville, shot repeatedly and his head smashed in by something, the Associated Press reported on Dec. 30, 1923.
A justice of the peace, J.S. Geiger, said then that he got a phone tip that day that white men were about to lynch a Black man around Grand Crossing, the thicket of rail lines that meet west of New Kings Road.
Geiger said he was organizing a posse to stop them when another call, maybe 10 minutes later, said the lynching had just happened in Dinsmore, about three miles from the crossing, the AP reported. (The AP gave the victim's name as Burman. A Black news service, the Associated Negro Press, spelled it Burnham.)
January 1924 opened with the Times-Union telling readers, without specifics, that Burnam and another man lynched on the Westside in December were bootleggers who died because of their work.
A white man later confessed to being part of the killing and named three accomplices, but two left town before being arrested and no one stood trial with the others at large.
News coverage from 1926 (“Florida will try lynchers,” an Associated Negro Press story was headlined) said the fourth man had been arrested in San Francisco and he and the others — who had been free on bail — could stand trial after was brought back to Jacksonville. But what happened after that is unclear, and there were indications that one of the accused men still lived in Jacksonville years after that.
Opening Remarks - Charles Griggs, Master of Ceremonies
Lift Every Voice and Sing - Cyriac Adjevi
Opening Prayer - Pastor Phillip Baber
Welcome - Dr. Kimberly Allen
Purpose - Lynn Sherman and Melanie Patz
Remarks and Prayer - Bishop Leofric W. Thomas, Jr.
Video - Equal Justice Initiative
Narrative: The Lynching of Eugene Burnam - Paul Bourcier
Spoken Word - Love Reigns
About the Equal Justice Initiative - Kiara Boone
Racial Reconciliation - Matt Hartley
A Message to the Community - Bryant Rollins
The Soil Collection and Drum Accompaniment - Adrian Rhodes, Drummer
We Shall Overcome - Jeremy McKinnies
Closing Remarks - Charles Griggs
The soil collected at the site of the crime will fill two jars: One to be sent to EJI’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and one to be retained locally.
Watch the Recorded Ceremony