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Remembrance of 1836 St. Louis lynching victim set for this weekend

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Lynching by fire, 1836

A drawing of the lynching by fire of Francis L. McIntosh in St. Louis on April 28, 1836. McIntosh, a free black and a cook on a steamboat, was arrested that day after a scuffle on the levee. While being taken to jail, he fatally stabbed a St. Louis County sheriff's deputy. A mob pulled him from the county jail, then at Chestnut and Sixth streets, and dragged him to near Market and 10th streets, where rioters chained McIntosh to a tree and burned him to death. The city's leadership tried to have nothing said about it, but abolitionist Elijah P. Lovejoy described the murder in graphic detail in his newspaper, the Observer. Violent reaction to Lovejoy's reporting led him to move his business to Alton.

The victim of a brutal lynching in downtown St. Louis will be remembered this weekend.

At 9 a.m. Saturday, the Reparative Justice Coalition of St. Louis will hold a soil collection ceremony to mark the lynching of Francis L. McIntosh, who was tied to a tree and burned to death on April 28, 1836.

The lynching ultimately forced abolitionist publisher Elijah P. Lovejoy to leave St. Louis and relocate in Alton.

Soil will be collected from the northwest corner of Kiener Plaza, the area where the lynching took place.

The soil will be placed in three jars: One jar will become part of an exhibit at the Griot Museum in St. Louis; another will be sent to the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City; and the third jar will be shipped to the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.

Mayor Tishaura Jones is slated to speak at the ceremony.

McIntosh, a free man and steamboat cook, was dragged from jail by a mob, tied to a tree and then set on fire. McIntosh had been arrested for allegedly stabbing a sheriff's deputy to death during a scuffle on the levee.

Lovejoy's newspaper, the Observer, wrote extensively about the incident, describing it as "an awful murder and savage barbarity."

The newspaper editor stayed in St. Louis and kept writing about the incident until July 1836, when a mob ransacked his office at 85 Main Street (now beneath the Gateway Arch) and destroyed his press.

After that, Lovejoy moved to Alton and continued publishing. Pro-slavery mobs ransacked the Alton office twice and both times threw Lovejoy's press into the river. He was killed in 1837 in Alton, while defending his third printing press.
 
This is the coalition's second soil collection in recent months. In January, the group held a ceremony at Buder Park, near Valley Park, to remember the lynching of John Buckner in 1894.
 
The coalition plans to erect commemorative plaques at both the Buckner and McIntosh sites in the future.
 
For more information about Saturday's event, go to rjcstl.org.
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