New Alabama Museum Features First US Memorial To Lynching Victims
A new museum and memorial will be bridging the history of black enslavement in the United States to modern day issues of mass incarceration and police violence.
The Equal Justice Initiative is raising $20 million for the museum “From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration,” and a “Memorial for Peace and Justice,” both of which will be built on the site of a former slave warehouse in Montgomery, Alabama.
A nonprofit organization the Equal Justice Initiative released a report documenting more than 4,000 lynchings of black people in the U.S. between 1877 and 1950. The names of those slain will be engraved on over 800 concrete columns representing each county where lynchings took place.
“We have done a very poor job, largely because it is a very painful part of history to uncover,” Kiara Boone, Deputy Program Director for the EJI told WBRC. “But we don’t think we should shy away from that discomfort and that pain. We think there is real power in talking honestly about that history and being truthful about it.”
The EJI has hired the same group that helped design the 9-11 memorial to construct the museum in downtown Montgomery. According to a rendering of the museum, visitors will be able to see the connection between America’s complex and violent history with black people, with the exhibit adorned by statements such as “You are standing on the site of a former slave pen.”
The memorial presents that theme especially in its design. From a distance it looks like any other classical structure, but upon closer inspection visitors will see that the columns are floating and hanging from the ceiling, evoking a visceral image of lynchings from the past.
“We really do believe that to get to healing, we have to tell the truth about this history,” Boone said. “We think these tools are critical to begin the conversation. We see the museum as a way to continue that effort.”
The museum is slated to open in April of next year, with the memorial opening in late 2017. You can view a video about the museum and memorial below.