Memorial to Victims of Lynching

“Inside the Memorial to Victims of Lynching” is a recent 60 Minutes (CBS) story by Oprah Winfrey.

The story begins “there is a reckoning taking place in America over how we remember our history. Much of the focus has been on whether or not to take down monuments that celebrate the Confederacy. But this story is about a new monument going up in Montgomery, Alabama. It documents the lynchings of thousands of African-American men, women and children during a 70 year period following the Civil War.

The project is being led by criminal defense attorney Bryan Stevenson, who is determined to shed light on a dark period in our past that most people would rather forget. It’s a shocking and disturbing reality that lynchings were not isolated murders committed only by men in white hoods in the middle of the night. Often, they were public crimes, witnessed — even celebrated — by thousands of people. Stevenson believes if we want to heal racial divisions we must educate Americans — of every color and creed.”

“The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, opening to the public on April 26, 2018, will become the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.”

From the video above, “our country will begin to heal after more than a century of silence.”

The memorial is one project of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). On the EJI’s website is a report, “LYNCHING IN AMERICA: CONFRONTING THE LEGACY OF RACIAL TERROR”

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice provides a sacred space for truth-telling and reflection about racial terrorism and its legacy.

The museum and memorial are part of EJI’s work to advance truth and reconciliation around race in America and to more honestly confront the legacy of slavery, lynching, and segregation. “Our nation’s history of racial injustice casts a shadow across the American landscape,” EJI Director Bryan Stevenson explains. “This shadow cannot be lifted until we shine the light of truth on the destructive violence that shaped our nation, traumatized people of color, and compromised our commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice.”

A member of North Meadow Circle of Friends, Jimmy Ilachild, who moved to Alabama spoke to us about another Equal Justice Initiative project, the Community Remembrance Project. He spoke of the powerful experience he had when he traveled with a group to the site of a lynching, and they gathered the soil from that site, and placed it in a jar labeled with the person’s name. Hundreds of these jars of soil from lynching sites have been collected.

I have previously writing about another project, the Lynch Quilts Project.  These are difficult and disturbing things to see and think about. But it is important that we do.

The 60 Minutes episode concludes: “Bryan Stevenson: And right now, when we talk about our history, when we talk about our past, we’re not telling the truth. We’re just not. America can be a great nation, even though there was slavery, even though there was lynching, even though there was segregation. But if we don’t talk about those things we did, we don’t acknowledge those things, we’re not going to get there.”

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