By Jason Husser
Washington Parish in Louisiana sure doesn’t look like the cutting edge of anything, much less a place at the front lines of racial reconciliation, but a milestone event in American history is happening in a poor rural community with about as many alligators as people.
In 1965, during the height of the civil rights movement, a group of suspected Ku Klux Klan members piled into a pickup somewhere near the village of Varnado. They proceeded to ambush the patrol car of the first two black deputy sheriffs in the parish. Creed Rodgers was severely injured and Oneal Moore, a 34-year-old father of four and Army veteran, was assassinated in a hate crime.
Almost half a century later, a region that wrought such horror and injustice is doing something right. It is remembering. Sheriff Randy “Country” Seal has started the process of building a memorial to Moore in the entrance of his department’s very modest headquarters in my childhood hometown.
This memorial, and many like it throughout the country, may seem inconsequential, but memorials are so much more. Places like the International Civil Rights Museum in North Carolina, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., Ground Zero, or the forthcoming and admittedly more modest Fallen Heroes Memorial in Washington Parish serve a higher social purpose. They are embodiments of memories.
Husser is an assistant professor of political science and assistant director of the Elon University Poll. He can be reached at email@example.com.