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George Smith Memorial Soil Ceremony

On Oct. 23, 2020, Creighton University played an important role in a solemn ceremony honoring the memory of Omaha man George Smith. In 1891, Smith, a Black man also known as Joe Coe, was brutally lynched after a racist mob seized him from the jail within the Douglas County Courthouse.

Members of the Creighton community joined others in collecting soil from the courthouse lawn and placing it into jars. The soil would be displayed locally and by the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.

The ceremony was held through a partnership of the Douglas County Community Remembrance Project, the City of Omaha Human Rights and Relations Department, the Omaha Community Council for Racial Justice and Reconciliation (OCCRJR) and the Equal Justice Initiative.

The OCCRJR steering committee consists of several members of the Creighton community, including: Christopher Whitt, PhD, vice provost for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion; Palma Joy Strand, JD, professor and director of Creighton’s 2040 Initiative in the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program; Chris Rodgers, BA’92, MBA’99, director of Community and Government Relations; Tracy Leavelle, PhD, director of the Kingfisher Institute; and Charise Alexander Adams, program planner for Kingfisher. The group regularly holds community meetings to explore how racial violence manifests in Omaha and what can be done to move toward racial justice.

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