Soil from Alabama lynching sites, collected as part of EJI’s Community Remembrance Project, forms a full-wall exhibit in EJI’s Montgomery, Alabama, office. (Benjamin Harmon/EJI.)

History of Racial Injustice: Healing from the Legacy of Lynching

Lynching profoundly impacted race relations in this country and shaped the geographic, political, social, and economic conditions of African Americans in ways that are still evident. Terror lynchings fueled the mass migration of millions of black people from the South into urban ghettos in the North and West. Violence was used to maintain racial subordination and segregation for generations. Lynching reinforced a legacy of racial inequality that remains largely hidden and ignored; those impacted by lynching have yet to be publicly acknowledged as victims. 

EJI’s Community Remembrance Project aims to elevate this history by collecting soil from the sites of more than 4000 documented lynchings in 12 Southern states between the end of the Civil War and the end of World War II. Gathered together, the jars of soil form a tangible representation of the lives lost and widespread terror inflicted.

EJI also joins with communities to erect historical markers at lynching sites. Public acknowledgment of mass violence is essential not only for victims and survivors, but also for perpetrators and bystanders who suffer from trauma related to their participation in systematic violence and dehumanization.

EJI believes this work is critical to building a lasting and more visible memory of our history of racial injustice. Through this reckoning with the truth of our nation’s past, we can begin a necessary conversation that advances healing and reconciliation.