The National Memorial for Peace and Justice Opens In Montgomery, Alabama
America’s first lynching memorial has opened today, April 26, 2018, in Montgomery, Alabama, and is dedicated to victims of racism and murder.
Inspired by the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, Germany, the Equal Justice Initiative created and, as of today, unveiled its six-acre memorial to victims of racism and murder. The National Memorial for Peace and Injustice stands, as EJI said on its website, as a “legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow.”
The legal and civil rights charity, along with the group’s head Bryant Stevenson spent years researching and documenting almost 4,400 incidents of these types of lynching across the American south. The $15 million memorial began in 2010 and is now open to the public. The EJI will host a weekend of events, featuring Common, The Roots, and Usher honoring the opening of the memorial, which sits on the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement and where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus in 1955.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice sits a mile away from the state capitol building and a host of statues commemorating the Confederacy. Mr. Stevenson spoke on why the organization didn’t choose to build the memorial in Washington, D.C., saying, “[We] really believe it is important for Americans to make the journey, take the trip, and get proximate to the part of this country where this legay was most intensely felt.” More than 800 coffin-like columns are suspended from a canopy, resembling the colonnade of the Lincoln Memorial from afar.
Engraved along the large, oxidized steel pillars are the names of American counties and the number of African Americans who were lynched there. “The columns meet you first at eye level, like the headstones that lynching victims were rarely given,” the New York Times wrote, describing the look and feel of the memorial. “But as you walk, the floor steadily descends; by the end, the columns are all dangling above, leaving you in the position of the callous spectators in old photographs of public lynchings, which were attended by many.”
Tickets for admission to the museum and the memorial are now available at museumandmemorial.eji.org and you can watch the livestream below.