Petition circulates to remove ‘hanging tree’ outside Monticello courthouse

Petition circulates to remove ‘hanging tree’ outside Monticello courthouse
Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 7:38 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A petition is now circulating to remove a famous landmark in Monticello as some say it’s a painful reminder of the past.

Residents in Jefferson County are asking for the removal of what is commonly known as the "hanging tree," recognized as the site where African Americans were once hanged.

The tree is standing outside the historic courthouse in Monticello. Located next to the roundabout on Highway 19 and Highway 90, some residents say it's hard to go anywhere in Monticello without passing by it and being reminded of the suffering that took place there generations before.

Jasmine Williams grew up in Monticello. She says memorializing markers this these makes it difficult to grow, and become a more inclusive community.

"Seeing that tree just reminds me, over and over again about the struggles, the pain and everything else affiliated with slavery, and the ill treatment of African Americans," Williams said.

The petition was started about a month ago by Don Davis. It now has more than 1,100 signatures.

With movements happening nationwide to remove confederate monuments, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, Davis says this effort is another part of that.

Growing up in the area, he remembers passing by the tree and being told the stories of his ancestors being killed there. He says, that suffering returns every time he passes by.

“The stories bring back memories, what happened at this tree,” Davis said. “Still, Thursday nights they gather around this tree, Thursday afternoon at 12:00 p.m. everything closes down, and I feel like it should be equality all the way around.”

Petitioners are also asking for the removal of a confederate monument on the north side of the courthouse.

Organizers tell WCTV public hangings would take place at 12:00 p.m. on Thursdays. Still, several businesses, as well as the post office, close at that time. The petitioners are also asking for that to change.

Davis says they have brought the petition to members of the city council. They hope to have a response in the next thirty days.

WCTV reached out to city administration Tuesday but did not hear back.

As of Wednesday morning, the petition requesting the removal of the hanging tree had more than 1,200 signatures.

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