From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were black (72%). The majority occuring in the south (79%).

Ashes to Ashes

Homegoing Celebration for the Unburied

"Ashes to Ashes" are the final words in typical African American funeral services. Many of those who were murdered by the Klan to maintain the reign of white supremacy never received their Ashes to Ashes . The goal of this project by Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker is to acknowledge and mourn the African Americans who were racially terrorized during the Jim Crow era after the Civil War and until this very day. Some endured lynching and other forms of brutalization and therefore, they never received a proper burial. The ceremony was a celebration of thousands of African Americans.

As Dr. John Bracey, Chairman of African American Studies at UMASS said, "What took us so long?"

We collaborated with the department of African American studies at UMASS to provide educational information to the schools to strengthen their understanding of the project and to foster more knowledge of the history of slavery in America and its aftermath.

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Award Winning Film

Ashes to Ashes

Director: Taylor Rees

Winfred Rembert, a survivor of a lynching attempt, befriends fellow artist (Shirley Whitaker) on a mission to memorialise forgotten names – over 3,000 documented lynchings in America from 1877 – 1950.

"We made Ashes to Ashes to better understand the personal pain at the core of racism. We hope this film adds to an understanding of this difficult topic, so the chorus of voices in support of Winfred, Shirley and others may be even louder," said Taylor Freesolo Rees, Filmmaker.
Ashes to Ashes Cleveland International Film Festival      Ashes to Ashes Telluride Mountain Film Festival      Ashes to Ashes Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Ashes to Ashes is a 25 minute short directed by Taylor Rees, produced by Todd Rees and Taylor Rees, with cinematography by Renan Ozturk, and editing by Joe Peeler has was numerous awards at the Cleveland International Film Festival, Telluride Mountain Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, and many more.

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Shirley Jackson Whitaker, MD

Dr. Whitaker is a kidney specialist who delivers her messages on health over the radio airways, at church functions, at public fundraising events and even through her own artwork. Growing up in South Georgia, she was taught early on, the importance of being sensitive and caring towards others.

Taking all of her experiences from her love of medicine, art and people she created the Ashes to Ashes program that will provide for a real memorial (funeral) service for the over 2 million lost during the Middle Passages, and the 3,999 documented lynchings that took place in America from 1877 – 1950.

As Dr. John Bracey, Chairman of African American Studies at UMASS said, "what took us so long?"


  • Abe O'Neal

  • Alfred Shafford

  • Allen West

  • Garfield McCoy

  • "Pink" Willis

  • Charles Bealle

  • Charles Jennings

  • Robert Ethridge

  • Frank Wigfall

  • Charles Mitchell

  • Seymour Neville

  • "Doc" King

  • Albert Gooden

  • Alexander Bell

  • Patrick Crump

  • Robert Lewis

  • Alonzo Fisher

  • Austin Porter

  • Ulyssess Nalls

  • Virgil Jones

  • Willis Griffey

  • William Stokes

The Ashes to Ashes Annual Ceremony serves as the voice of countless African Americans that have fallen victim to the brutality of lynching in the United States. Those who attended the ceremonies, accepted the film release conditions for attendance and their email address was added to our email list to receive more information.

  • Illumination

    Ashes 2 Ashes
    Children with candles illumination

    Children will form a procession to start the Ashes 2 Ashes Annual Ceremony and illuminate the evening sky to expresses gratitude for the African Americans who were racially terrorized during the Jim Crow era after the Civil War and until this very day. Some endured lynching and other forms of brutalization and therefore, they never received a proper burial.

    Attend Ceremony

  • The Ceremony

    The Struggle Continues
    choir sining at st john legacy church ashes to ashes

    On the evening of May 6, 2017, join us at the historical, St. John Legacy Church, located at 643 Union St Springfield, MA 01109 for an evening of celebration and remembrance. Following the Illumination, sit back as you experience a multifaceted performance including singing, vignette reading, and a time for prayer.
    dance performance ashes to ashes ceremony
    Experience commemorative dance and a reading of the names of those African Americans who lost their live to lynching and other forms of brutalization and therefore their name will be spoken aloud during this special Speak My Name commemoration, so they will live forever.

    Attend Ceremony

  • Documentary

    Coming Fall 2017
    Avery Sharpe | Music

    Rees Film LLC of Massachusetts and Utah is producing the “Ashes to Ashes” documentary. This is in keeping with the opinion of Dr. Joan Braderman, Film Professor, Hampshire College and others that the documentation of this historic event is imperative.

    Attend Ceremony

Lynched, burned alive, mutilated, tarred and feathered but never received a respectful burial not even a prayer.

Ashes to Ashes Book

Ashes to Ashes: A Homecoing Celebration for The Unburied commemorates a selection of six recorded lynchings in America, and from paper to bindings to etchings was made entirely by hand. In addition to being a writer, Dr. Whitaker is also a physician. “Any time I want to help a patient, the first thing I get is a history,” said Jackson. “[It’s] important for us to get that in order to orchestrate some form of healing.” She said she felt the book Ashes to Ashes: A Homecoming Celebration for the Unburied was another way of remembering history, a way to help the world learn from its past.

Limited edition of 50 copies; signed by the author. Broadside consists of a list of names of victims of lynching. Broadside housed in gray paper sleeve, with text: As long as you speak my name I will live forever. Broadside and volume issued in gray cloth clamshell box. Includes "Obituary : an overdue tribute to the unburied & terrorized" by Marisha Clinton & Dr. Shirley Whitaker.

Ashes to Ashes: Broadside

Shirley Ann Whitaker with printer, reviewing the Ashes to Ashes broadside (single sheet 28 x 7 ins.) printed with the names of lynched African Americans. A broadside is a large sheet of paper printed on one side only. Historically, broadsides were used as posters, announcing events or proclamations, commentary in the form of ballads, or simply advertisements.

Ashes to Ashes: Hardcover

Roy. 8vo, 11 x 7.5 ins., half-title, title, introduction, color print, funeral service text over color print, half-page print with text, obituary 2 leaves printed on one side, 6 portraits with letterpress, blind-stamped coffin with text, colophon.

Please share #speakmyname on Twitter and Share on Facebook to start the healing.

Dr. Whitaker was the art protege of one of American's leading artists, the late Leonard Baskin.


Anti-lynching plays and poems were read aloud in homes and churches from 1890 to 1930 to counter the racial terrorism that was at its peak. Please take the overlooked aspect of African American literary history and present it in your home with your family and friends to celebrate our ancestors and ourselves and to get ready for “Ashes to Ashes”.

The following samples of poems and anti-lynching plays you can consider for your event or find more online.

Interactive Map Showing over a century of documented lynchings in the United States. Acts of domestic terrorism against black people and the thousands murdered lynchings. Mapping the history of racial terror.

You can help Ashes to Ashes by volunteering your time or resources.

Donna-Marie Peters, Faculty Fellow, Assistant Professor, Sociology, College of Liberal Arts, Temple University:
"Our ancestors are calling."


We love to listen and we are eagerly waiting to talk to you regarding the Ashes to Ashes program. Get in touch with us if you have any queries and we will get back to you. For your convenience you may also call (413) 461-0587