EJI's Community Remembrance Project is part of our campaign to recognize the victims of lynching by collecting soil from lynching sites, erecting historical markers, and creating a memorial that acknowledges the horrors of racial injustice.
Between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States. Lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. EJI has documented more than 4000 racial terror lynchings in 12 Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950. EJI supplemented this research by documenting racial terror lynchings in eight additional states which accounted for more than 300 racial terror lynchings.
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 today. Terror lynchings fueled the mass migration of millions of black people from the South into urban ghettos in the North and West in the first half of the 20th century. Lynching created a fearful environment in which racial subordination and segregation were maintained with limited resistance for decades. Most critically, lynching reinforced a legacy of racial inequality that has never been adequately addressed in America.
Public acknowledgment of mass violence is essential not only for victims and survivors, but also for perpetrators and bystanders who suffer from trauma and damage related to their participation in systematic violence and dehumanization. Many of the communities where lynchings took place have gone to great lengths to erect markers and monuments that memorialize the Civil War, the Confederacy, and historical events during which local power was violently reclaimed by white Southerners. But there are very few monuments or memorials that address the history and legacy of lynching in particular or the struggle for racial equality more generally, and most of the victims of lynching have never been publicly acknowledged.
To create greater awareness and understanding about racial terror lynchings, and to begin a necessary conversation that advances truth and reconciliation, EJI is working with communities to commemorate and recognize the traumatic era of lynching by collecting soil from lynching sites across the country and erecting historical markers in these spaces.
This Community Remembrance Project is intended to bring community members closer to the legacy of lynching and to contribute to the effort to build a lasting and more visible memory of our history of racial injustice. Jars of collected soil will be part of an exhibit in the From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration Museum that will reflect the history of lynching and express our generation's resolve to confront the continuing challenges that racial inequality creates.
EJI believes that "truth and reconciliation" is sequential, and that we must address oppressive histories by helping communities to honestly and soberly recognize the pain of the past. As more communities join in this effort to concretize the experience of racial terror through discourse, memorials, markers, and other acts of truth-telling, more are overcoming the shadows cast by these grievous events.