In the summer of 2014, Jacqueline Olive was preparing to wrap up her documentary film on America’s gruesome history of racial lynching, having devoted five years to chronicling its corrosive impact in the south and across the country.
Just as she was about to start editing, news reached her of a disturbing event in the small North Carolina town of Bladenboro. In the early hours of 29 August 2014, a 17-year-old African American boy named Lennon Lacy had been found hanging from a swing set in an all-white trailer park about a quarter of a mile from his home.
Teenager - Death - Evokes - Imagery - North
Teenager's mysterious death evokes painful imagery in North Carolina: 'It's in the DNA of America'
Within days of his body being found, the local police chief had declared the tragedy to be a suicide. But for Lennon’s mother, Claudia Lacy, that rush to judgment was not enough.
Investigation - Son - Death - Evidence - Boy
Why had there been no thorough investigation into her son’s death, she demanded to know? Where was the evidence that this happy and popular boy had intended to take his own life? Why was Lennon wearing unfamiliar shoes a size smaller than his own when he died, and whose belts were those from which he had been hanging?
As the Guardian reported in October 2014, bringing the story to nationwide attention for the first time, Lacy began to pose a terrible question: had her son been the victim of a modern-day lynching?
Olive - Woman - Mississippi - Death - Lennon
For Olive, herself a black woman from Mississippi, the death of Lennon resonated personally. “My son was 17, Lennon’s age,” she said to the Guardian. “I was overwhelmed by what it must have meant to Claudia to lose her son in a way that was so tied to our historical trauma. I couldn’t imagine the depth of grief.”
Professionally, Lennon’s death resonated too. The more Olive learnt about what...
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