On April 26th, the long awaited Memorial to Peace and Justice as well as the Legacy Museum, both created by the Equal Justice Initiative, opened to the public. People from all over the country gathered to pay their respects to the lives lost to the horrors of lynching. EJI helped paint a picture through the museum and memorial of how our nation’s history of slavery led to lynching which led to our modern issues with mass incarceration.
The memorial is a particularly painful and powerful experience. From a distance, what looks like a series of pillars, are actually blocks hanging from the ceiling of the structure. As you walk through, the ground slowly lowers and the pillars rise above your head reminiscent of the bodies hung from trees and structures. Engraved on each pillar is the name and date of death of known lynching victims. These are only the known instances, we know there are thousands more whose stories are only held in the hearts of their loved ones and the trauma left in their wake.
Outside the memorial stands a matching pillar for each county. EJI is asking every county in America where there are known victims of lynching to come claim their pillar and bring it back home where it can be a permanent memorial to the lives lost and terror caused. If your county is represented, you can push your local officials to take ownership of your county’s history.
As bridge builders, we highly recommend everyone who is able make the trek to Montgomery. The path to reconciliation requires both truth and justice, and the work of EJI is a powerful example of both.
For more information about EJI and Bryan Stevenson, check out his book Just Mercy.
To better understand the terror of the era of lynching, we recommend the book White Rage.