Until the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, in April 2018, no prominent monument or memorial existed to commemorate the thousands of African Americans who were lynched during the era of racial terrorism. Too few spaces in this country publicly acknowledge the brutality of slavery in America or allow for informed reflection about how the narrative of racial difference created to justify slavery has evolved.
The American landscape is littered with plaques, statues, and monuments to the Confederacy. Hundreds of memorials honor defenders of slavery and leaders who championed racial segregation and white supremacy, including many who perpetrated racial violence. The absence of a prominent public memorial acknowledging slavery and racial terrorism is a powerful statement about our failure to value the African Americans who were enslaved, killed, and traumatized.
EJI believes that mass atrocities must be recognized before societies can recover. To correct our distorted national narrative about slavery and racial terror and address the harms to the African American community, EJI created the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, which memorializes over 4000 lynching victims. Officials from each county where a lynching has been documented will be asked to retrieve and install memorial columns in their counties. Over time, the memorial will tell a powerful story about our nation’s willingness to truthfully confront our history.
At the site of a former slave warehouse is the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, a narrative museum that explores our failure to acknowledge enslavement, lynching, and racial segregation, and how as a result of that failure, racial disparities continue to burden people of color; the criminal justice system is infected with racial bias; and a presumption of dangerousness and guilt has led to mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and police violence against young people of color.