“Truth telling and reconciliation.”
This is how Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), has described his latest project Lynching in America, which was formed from a report published by the EJI called Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror. Prior to the platform going live on Tuesday, Stevenson and Justin Steele, Principal of Google.org, spoke about the project and offered a preview of its features at Google NYC.
“I don’t think slavery ended in 1865 — I think it evolved,” Stevenson said. “It turned into decades of terrorism, and this era of terror and violence is an era that we haven’t talked very much about — we go through the civil war through the civil rights movement without any acknowledgment of all of the damage that was done through this 100 year time period.”
Lynching in America attempts to fill that void, chronicling over 4,000 lynchings that occurred between 1877 and 1950 throughout the United States. One feature a part of the website includes an interactive web page where users can click different states to see how many lynchings happened in each county, with some even including a narration of certain lynchings that took place. One example of this can be found upon clicking on Lamar County in Texas where Stevenson narrates the death of Henry Smith, a black man who attempted to flee Paris, Texas after he discovered he was suspected of killing a white woman, only to be seized by a posse and stripped naked, beaten, and burned alive in front of 10,000 people. Afterward, the crowd clamored for souvenirs of the lynching, retrieving everything from Smith’s ashes to his bones.