Recently citizens of what we fondly refer to as Haysamerica began joining in the Black Lives Matter demonstrations held at the busiest intersection in the City. Several of us decided to try to help break the cycle of silent racism in our community in small but significant ways. One that took on a life of its own was the push to eliminate the racist name of a County road that goes from Hays to Yocemento, along the former route of U.S. Highway 40. The Ellis County Commission had given the name of Noose Road to the former highway because it began at a spot near a railroad bridge which was the site of an infamous lynching of three black Buffalo soldiers from Fort Hays in 1869. They were accused of shooting a railroad watchman and a mob took them from the local jail and hanged them at the bridge. No jury. No judge. No trial. Just three black men who were denied due process of law, in what was undeniably an act of racial terrorism. The name festered in the minds of people who were afraid to speak out, for thirty years. Recent events brought the issue to the public eye and a spontaneous movement to change the name occurred, fueled by social media and letters to the newspaper. Pressure quickly mounted and in less than a week, the present County Commission decided that the name should be changed. The road will now be known as Rome Avenue. Rome, the first city established in Ellis County, founded by Buffalo Bill Cody, was located at the easternmost part of the road involved and it is historically significant and not connected with any of the racist things which were perpetrated by early citizens of the county. This is a victory, albeit small, for those who are trying to raise the consciousness of our almost entirely white populace. Without anything but civil protest and using the logic of history, we were able to achieve the change peacefully and in a way that helped thousands of people understand the insidious nature of systemic racism. We appealed to the sense of justice of the Commission, and to their credit, they took decisive action to right a wrong that has festered here for the entire life of our City and County.
Because of the speed with which these actions occurred, it was not possible to contact the 25 residents whose addresses will change from Noose Road to Rome Avenue. We promised, after the Commission had made the decision, to raise enough money to allow the County to defray the expenses of the change and, more importantly and fairly, help pay some of the cost to the homeowners and business located on the road to change stationery, checking account checks, send out notices of address changes and the things that are necessitated by an address change. Because none of those people were the reason for the mis-naming and because they in many cases came forward to support the change, we think we should encourage such actions by making it less burdensome, financially.
We ask that if you agree that it is important to show support to people and government ready to listen to our cry for justice and help show the world that we are not blind to systemic racism, even in Haysamerica, please donate a few dollars to this small campaign. ALL FUNDS will go to Ellis County to administer and we will insist that the money go to people who are financially affected by the sudden change. No money will go to any of the organizers of this effort and the one property owner among us who lives on the road will not take any reimbursement of any kind. One of the County Commissioners made the first pledge, for $200.
We have set a goal of $2,700, which would allow each affected property owner to receive an average of $100 and the County to recoup the approximate $200 it will take to replace street signs. Any money raised/donated in excess of that or not used by the affected residents will be earmarked for the County to use to maintain the signs and ensure that they are kept in good shape.
We thank you for anything you can contribute and even if it is only an encouraging note or comment, whatever you do will help us continue the struggle for racial justice in America. Black Lives do matter and that message has been received clearly in our community.
- Abby Schneweis
- Morgan Shoaff
- Kaleigh Wentworth
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