A century after massacre, descendants make a point of voting

This is part of our daily newsletter series. Want this in your inbox? Subscribe here.

By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences

When everyone goes one way, sometimes the best photographers go the other way.

On a momentous Election Day, Chris Gregory-Rivera found himself far from the crowds, near the Florida city of Ocoee. A century ago, after an African American tried to vote, a Ku Klux Klan mob killed Black residents of the town and burned their homes. All but two of the town’s African American residents fled, census records show.

This week, not far from the marble memorial at the site of the town’s likely former African American cemetery (above left), 81-year-old Gladys Franks Bell (above right) was volunteering as a poll worker, helping others do what may have gotten her great-great-uncle lynched in 1920. “This election is very special to me,” she says.

What Chris covered was not redemption, but a story little told in American history, updated with a determination to remember the past—and transcend it.

Discrimination still abounds in the town where no one was punished for the massacre. Above left, the first Black city commissioner, George Oliver, grasps the lock preventing community members from accessing the former African American cemetery. The city did not even recognize the massacre until two years ago, and it is still working on an apology.

Above right, Narisse Spicer, a great-granddaughter of massacre survivors John and Lucy Hickey, believes that Black voters still face voter suppression at the polls. “We are 100 years into this and we are still dealing with voter intimidation, voter suppression, and issues of race and violence,” Nat Geo’s Sydney Combs quotes her as saying. “It is definitely time, and well overdue, to start thinking about how we can change the future so that future generations don’t experience the same thing.” Below, in Orlando, the grave of Julius “July” Perry, who was among the people lynched in Ocoee.

What do you do to transcend this long-ignored horror? For Bell, it was helping others vote. For her son, it was heading into Ocoee on Tuesday and casting his vote. “He knows the story,” Bell says. “We keep the story going … and I told him that you voting there in Ocoee made it more significant.”

Do you get this newsletter daily? If not, sign up here or forward to a friend.

Today in a minute

This just in: Recently counted votes increase the chances that former Vice President Joe Biden will be America’s 46th president. That means that Sen. Kamala Harris would be the first of at least 11 women who have been on a presidential ticket to ascend to office as vice president, Nat Geo’s Rachel Hartigan reports. While the nation has been beset by a divisive campaign and days of uncertainty, we’ve put together this photo-laden look at the things that hold America together.

Remembering Baron Wollman: He was in San Francisco when the Jefferson Airplane began, when the Grateful Dead lived in one place, when an idea became Rolling Stone magazine. A classical music fan, photographer Baron Wollman connected and was curious about rock culture, and his easygoing demeanor helped him get candid images of Jimi Hendrix, Sun Ra, and Pete Townsend, among many others, Wollman, who was battling ALS, died Monday night, Rolling Stone reports.

Marking COVID-19’s toll: By late this afternoon, more than 235,000 flags will be fluttering at Washington, D.C.’s Armory Parade Grounds—one for each reported U.S. victim of the coronavirus. “People bring their grief here every day, and they say thank you,” artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg told us. She and volunteers have been adding 1,000 flags a day with the recent wave. Firstenberg had created her memorial, “In America How Could This Happen…”, to honor those who often died alone. She had purchased 250,000 flags for her installation—and bought another 15,000 this week when D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser extended the memorial through November. (Pictured above, Firstenberg, second from left, with chef José Andrés, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Mayor Bowser.)

Your Instagram photo of the day

Baby harpy: Few words can describe what it’s like to be on a platform 80 feet up in the rainforest canopy, at eye level with one of the world's most powerful raptors. The harpy eagle is one of the largest eagles—with a wingspan of 6.5 feet, rear talons up to 4 inches long, and a weight of 9-20 pounds. The female is twice the size of the male. This magnificent predator has legs as thick as human wrists. It feeds on sloths, two-foot-long howler monkeys, armadillos, and baby deer. The harpy spends two years raising just one chick, and the species is threatened by severe habitat loss and other human-related activity.

Related: A heroic effort in the Amazon to save the harpy

The big takeaway

Prayers, hope, and a new world: Six Nat Geo photographers witnessed a wide range of scenes as they covered Election Week. Their images captured both Trump and Biden supporters, separately, in prayer; of voters walking past windows boarded up for fear of violence; of enthusiasm, determination, and musical performances while voters waited in line. Above, supporters wait for Trump to arrive at a rally Monday in Scranton, Pennsylvania; below, first-time voter Alexi Jenkins, 18, arrives to cast her ballot at a polling station in a school gymnasium in Milwaukee.

Did a friend forward this to you?

On Mondays, Debra Adams Simmons covers the latest in history. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Victoria Jaggard on science, George Stone on travel, and Rachael Bale on animal and wildlife news.

The last glimpse

A different Day of the Dead: With the specter of COVID-19 hanging, this week’s Día de los Muertos celebrations in Latin America bore little resemblance to the festive, musical parties of years past. Nat Geo’s Nina Strochlic reports that many of the public traditions around the holiday were celebrated in private to prevent the spread of the deadly pandemic. Pictured above, a young boy carries a bouquet of marigolds for a home altar in San Andres Misquic, Mexico. The marigold, or flower of the dead, is used as offering on the holiday.

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, and Jen Tse selected the photographs. Kimberly Pecoraro and Gretchen Ortega helped produce this, and Amanda Williams-Bryant, Rita Spinks, Alec Egamov, and Jeremy Brandt-Vorel also contributed this week. Have an idea or a link? We’d love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com . Thanks for reading, and have a good weekend!

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet