Texas Hate Crime Sparks Racial Healing Project

Marisa Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle, June 23, 2008

It’s a long way from Jasper, Texas, to San Francisco, and it’s been a decade since the small town gained fame for a reason no one wanted: the murder of a black man, who was chained behind a pickup truck by three white supremacists and dragged to a horrific death.

Despite time and distance, about 100 people were brought back to June 7, 1998, at a San Francisco theater Sunday during a remembrance for James Byrd Jr., the 49-year-old father of three who was killed 10 years ago this month. The event happened in San Francisco because its sponsor, the James Byrd Jr. Racism Oral History Project, is based in the Bay Area.

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The Oral History Project, headed by Lani Silver, is a project of the Byrd Foundation for Racial Healing, which was founded by Byrd’s family. Since it began in 2000, the oral history project has gathered more than 2,600 oral histories on racism in America, and has taught thousands of Bay Area students, in school programs, about racism. The foundation, which intends to stop hate through education, also gives scholarships and organizes cultural diversity workshops in Jasper, and has helped pass hate-crime legislation in Texas.

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