The Coos History Museum will join with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama during Black History Month in an effort to change the narrative about racial injustice in American history. On Saturday, February 29, beginning at 10 a.m., a memorial observance will take place at the small city wayside at the south end of North Front Street behind Seaboard Properties in downtown Coos Bay, OR. Students from Marshfield High, North Bend High, Southwestern Oregon Community College, and officials from the City of Coos Bay, EJI, and the Coos History Museum will lead a ceremony in remembrance of a racial violence tragedy that occurred in Coos County over a century ago.
In September of 1902, Mr. Alonzo Tucker, an African American bootblack who also ran a gymnasium in Marshfield, was accused of assaulting a white woman who was the wife of a local coal miner. Tucker was taken into police custody and brought to the Marshfield jail at City Hall which, prior to 1922, was located near the bay at the south end of North Front Street. An angry mob of white miners from the Libby area, intent on lynching Mr. Tucker, headed to the jail to abduct him. In fear for his life, Tucker managed to escape prior to their arrival and hid under the docks overnight. The mob set up an armed patrol across the city to find him. The next morning he was shot several times after being discovered. The mob then decided to take Tucker to the scene of the alleged crime, near the 7th Street Bridge, in South Marshfield. Although Mr. Tucker died on the way to the bridge, he was nevertheless hanged from a beam on the bridge as a public spectacle. Despite the fact that newspapers reported that “not a masked man was in the [mob] and everything was done in broad daylight,” no one was ever held accountable for Mr. Tucker’s lynching. Tucker never had the chance of proving his innocence in a public trial.
The non-profit Equal Justice Initiative was founded in 1989. The EJI educates citizens about civil rights and provides research and recommendations to assist advocates and policymakers in the critically important work of criminal justice reform. In April of 2018, the EJI opened The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. It is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, and African Americans humiliated by racial segregation.
The mission of the Coos History Museum is to create a better understanding of life in Coos County and Oregon’s South Coast, past and present, and our place in that life. The CHM does this by collecting and preserving stories, artifacts, photographs, and documents, and by helping create opportunities for people to interpret them in meaningful thought-provoking, and engaging ways. The Coos History Museum shares intriguing human stories about Coos County and Oregon’s South Coast, and we help diverse audiences connect with each other and with our region’s culture, histories, and heritage. Over the last four years, the Coos History Museum has held over a dozen events connected with the theme of diversity by working with the Oregon Humanities Commission, LGBTQ+ organizations, and homeless advocates.
Soil that has been collected from the Front Street and 7th Street Bridge sites will be blessed and placed in two decorative jars inscribed with the name of Alonzo Tucker during the February 29th event. One jar will be sent to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama for display along with the hundreds of others that commemorate lynching sites in America. The second jar will remain at the Coos History Museum and will be used in a future exhibit about racial injustice in the history in Oregon and the South Coast. In the near future, the City of Coos Bay will also be placing an historical marker at the Front Street site.
The soil ceremony is free and open to the public. Free parking is available anywhere along Front Street. In addition, Coos County Area Transit (CCAT) will be running a free shuttle trolley between the Coos History Museum parking lot and the south end of N. Front Street before and after the event.
For more information about this event, contact Steven Greif, Coos History Museum volunteer, at 541.294.0403.
All events subject to change.