Racial Violence in the 1950s

01.27.20

During the April 2019 dedication ceremony at the EJI Peace and Justice Memorial Center in
Montgomery, Alabama, family members and community representatives honored victims of racial
violence killed in the 1950s by placing roses at a monument bearing their names. (Human Pictures)

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice documents the era of racial terror lynchings between 1877 and 1950. Racially motivated violence and lynchings continued after 1950, often targeting civil rights leaders and black people whose success challenged white supremacy.

On April 29, 2019, EJI dedicated a monument at the Peace and Justice Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama. It is inscribed with the names of 24 men, women, and children killed in racially motivated attacks during the 1950s, including well-known individuals such as Emmett Till and Harry and Henriette Moore, as well as lesser known victims like Hilliard Brooks Jr.

On August 13, 1950, 22-year-old Hilliard Brooks Jr. was murdered on a Montgomery bus after he was accused of “creating a disturbance.” According to some reports, Mr. Brooks merely refused the bus driver’s order to exit and enter through the rear of the bus as Jim Crow custom dictated. The driver called police and a white officer fatally shot the unarmed black man and wounded two bystanders. Mr. Brooks left behind a pregnant wife and several young children. Though multiple eyewitnesses reported that the shooting was unnecessary, the officer faced no charges. Outrage over Mr. Brooks’s death helped set the stage for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The deaths of the 24 people memorialized at the Peace and Justice Memorial Center sparked protests and activism that fueled more than a decade of social change. EJI remembers them for their leadership, their humanity, and their critical role in a long and continuing struggle.