Equal Justice Initiative Gears Up to Open the First Lynching Memorial

On April 26, the Equal Justice Initiative will open the doors to the public with its very first memorial and museum in Montgomery, Alabama that pays homage to the victims of lynching in America post-Civil War. The memorial is called the National Memorial for Peace and Juice while the museum is called the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. Both were featured on a most recent episode of 60 Minutes with reporting done by Oprah and Equal Justice Initiative’s director, Bryan Stevenson.

Looking at the monument at a glance, it’s clear that it’s breathtaking and compelling. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, the monument features more than 800 pillars hanging from the ceiling, each one representing the more than 800 counties in American where lynchings have been recorded. What’s riveting about the 800 pillars is that all of them include names and dates of the victims.  

The memorial is more than a static monument. In the six-acre park surrounding the memorial is a field of identical monuments, waiting to be claimed and installed in the counties they represent. Over time, the national memorial will serve as a report on which parts of the country have confronted the truth of racial terror and which have not.

What makes the memorial and museum necessary and important is due to their being a public dismissal of lynching. In many communities during post-Civil War, lynchings were public spectacles, a form entertainment. Entire families would attend and dress up to watch the torture and death of Black people. The creation of the memorial and museum negates the act. By publicly confronting the truth about Black history, it allows Blacks to move forward towards recovery and reconciliation. 

When I first heard the news about the memorial and museum opening, my heart immediately began to smile. As a Black person in America, I often hear my White counterparts try to dismiss things that happened and continue to happen my people. No matter how many times I have to correct and school them on why it’s important to not overlook the heartbreaking things that Black people have gone and continue to go through, there are some people who just don’t get it. I’ve learned that some people have to feel the atmosphere and energy in a particular place in order to fully understand  

With the new memorial and museum opening, it allows those who choose to cast down on the reality of racism and injustice in this country to get a sense of why Black people have not necessarily moved passed the post-Civil War lynchings. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice provides a sacred space for truth-telling and reflection about racial terrorism and its legacy. A history of racial injustice must be acknowledged, recognized, and remembered before a society can recover from mass violence.

While I haven't experience lynching myself and pray I never endure the selfless act, my heart is filled with joy knowing my ancestors have a place that recognizes the injustice and horrific treatment they faced. Their voices and lives are not going in vain. For that, I could not be more excited and humbled to attend. 

Tickets for admission to the museum and the memorial are now available at museumandmemorial.eji.org.