Documentary examines community’s response to lynching


How can a community come to terms with a horrible experience like a lynching? That’s the focus of a new film, Lewis County: Hope & Struggle, that will have its Twin Cities’ premiere on Wednesday, May 17.

The showing, free and open to the public, will be at 7 p.m. in Room 1-127 of the Carlson School of Management Building, 321 19th Ave. S., on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus.

Lewis County is about a community’s attempt to come to terms with a suppressed history of labor struggle. In 1919, in the town of Centralia, Washington, members of the American Legion attacked the union hall of the Industrial Workers of the World.

The attack was widely expected, and when it occurred, armed IWW members stood ready to defend the hall. Four Legionnaires were killed in the battle, and in its aftermath, IWW organizer Nathan Wesley Everest was tortured and lynched.

For many years, residents were actively discouraged from discussing the Centralia massacre, and organizing in the community declined. The film documents the efforts of Centralia residents to produce a mural (painted by noted muralist Mike Alewitz) to address this suppressed history and documents the organizing efforts surrounding the making of the mural. It also shows tensions within the mural committee as people respond to different experiences of history and community.

Finally, it examines the changing landscape of work and opportunity in the county generally in an effort to pose the question: How can working people today begin to connect with, reinterpret and actively use their history of hope and struggle?

The film is part of the 2005-2006 Labor & Community Film Series, sponsored by the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service. The series highlights recently released films that give voice to workers and communities in the Americas.

For directions and other information, visit the LES “website”: or call 612/624-5020.